Objective: ATG16L1 is an autophagy gene known to control host immune responses to viruses and bacteria. Recently, a non-synonymous single-nucleotide polymorphism in ATG16L1 (Thr300Ala), previously identified as a risk factor in Crohn's disease (CD), was associated with more favourable clinical outcomes in thyroid cancer. Mechanisms underlying this observation have not been proposed, nor is it clear whether an association between Thr300Ala and clinical outcomes will be observed in other cancers. We hypothesised that Thr300Ala influences clinical outcome in human colorectal cancer (CRC) and controls innate antiviral pathways in colon cancer cells. Design: We genotyped 460 patients with CRC and assessed for an association between ATG16L1 Thr300Ala and overall survival and clinical stage. Human CRC cell lines were targeted by homologous recombination to examine the functional consequence of loss of ATG16L1, or introduction of the Thr300Ala variant. Results: We found an association between longer overall survival, reduced metastasis and the ATG16L1 Ala/Ala genotype. Tumour sections from ATG16L1 Ala/Ala patients expressed elevated type I interferons (IFN-I)-inducible, MxA, suggesting that differences in cytokine production may influence disease progression. When introduced into human CRC cells by homologous recombination, the Thr300Ala variant did not affect bulk autophagy, but increased basal production of type I IFN. Introduction of Thr300Ala resulted in increased sensitivity to the dsRNA mimic poly(I:C) through a mitochondrial antiviral signalling (MAVS)-dependent pathway. Conclusions: The CD-risk allele, Thr300Ala, in ATG16L1 is associated with improved overall survival in human CRC, generating a rationale to genotype ATG16L1 Thr300Ala in patients with CRC. We found that Thr300A alters production of MAVS-dependent type I IFN in CRC cells, providing a mechanism that may influence clinical outcomes.
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