Location-specific signatures of Crohn’s disease at a multi-omics scale

Carlos G. Gonzalez, Robert H. Mills, Qiyun Zhu, Consuelo Sauceda, Rob Knight, Parambir S. Dulai*, David J. Gonzalez*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Background: Crohn’s disease (CD), an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) subtype, results from pathologic interactions between host cells and its resident gut microbes. CD manifests in both isolated disease locations (ileum or colon) or a combination of locations (ileocolonic). To date, a comprehensive understanding of how isolated CD subtypes influence molecular profiles remains outstanding. To address this, we sought to define CD location signatures by leveraging a large cross-sectional feature set captured from the stool of over 200 IBD patients and healthy controls using metaproteomics, shotgun metagenomics, 16S rRNA sequencing, metabolomic profiling, and host genetics paired with clinical endoscopic assessments. Results: Neither metagenomic nor host genetics alone distinguished CD location subtypes. In contrast, ileal and colonic CD were distinguished using mass spectrometry-based methods (metabolomics or metaproteomics) or a combined multi-omic feature set. This multi-omic feature set revealed colonic CD was strongly associated with neutrophil-related proteins. Additionally, colonic CD displayed a disease-severity-related association with Bacteroides vulgatus. Colonic CD and ulcerative colitis profiles harbored strikingly similar feature enrichments compared to ileal CD, including neutrophil-related protein enrichments. Compared to colonic CD, ileal CD profiles displayed increased primary and secondary bile acid levels and concomitant shifts in taxa with noted sensitivities such as Faecalibacterium prausnitzii or affinities for bile acid-rich environments, including Gammaproteobacteria and Blautia sp. Having shown robust molecular and microbial distinctions tied to CD locations, we leveraged these profiles to generate location-specific disease severity biomarkers that surpass the performance of Calprotectin. Conclusions: When compared using multi-omics features, colonic- and ileal-isolated CD subtypes display striking differences that suggest separate location-specific pathologies. Colonic CD’s strong similarity to ulcerative colitis, including neutrophil and Bacteroides vulgatus involvement, is also evidence of a shared pathology for colonic-isolated IBD subtypes, while ileal CD maintains a unique, bile acid-driven profile. More broadly, this study demonstrates the power of multi-omics approaches for IBD biomarker discovery and elucidating the underlying biology. [MediaObject not available: see fulltext.]

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number133
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2022


  • Colonic Crohn’s
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Ileal Crohn’s
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Microbiome
  • Multi-omics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology (medical)
  • Microbiology


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