Different molecular events account for butyrate-induced apoptosis in two human colon cancer cell lines

Carmel Avivi-Green, Sylvie Polak-Charcon, Zecharia Madar, Betty Schwartz*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

56 Scopus citations


We studied the molecular events underlying butyrate-induced apoptosis in two different colon cancer cell lines: Caco-2, a well defined cancer cell and RSB, a cell line obtained from a colonic tumor of an ulcerative colitis patient. Caco-2 and RSB cells were exposed to 2, 5 and 10 mmol/L butyrate for 48 h. Caspase-1 was cleaved in Caco-2-cells at all butyrate concentrations, whereas in RSB-cells caspase-1 expression was undetectable. In RSB cells, butyrate dose-dependently induced caspase-3 cleavage, whereas in Caco-2-cells, butyrate up-regulated expression of the caspase-3 active subunit. Caspase-3-specific activity, cytoplasmic nucleosome concentration and growth were directly correlated with butyrate doses in both cell lines; however, the response was more pronounced in Caco-2 than in RSB cells. Expression of the cleaved poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP) product was elevated in both cell lines at the highest butyrate concentration. Bak expression gradually increased as a function of butyrate concentrations in both cell lines. At 10 mmol/L butyrate, expression increased by fivefold and sevenfold in Caco-2 and RSB cells, respectively. The highest expression of Bcl-2 was observed in control Caco-2 cells, and expression decreased with increasing butyrate concentration. This effect was not observed in RSB cells. Inactivation of caspase-1 with Z-YVAD-FMK abrogated butyrate-induced apoptosis in Caco-2 but not in RSB cells. Inactivation of caspase-3 with Z-DVED-FMK completely inhibited butyrate-induced apoptosis in RSB cells whereas this effect was less pronounced in Caco-2 cells. Our data demonstrate that butyrate-induced apoptosis is activated via different apoptotic pathways in diversely stratified colon cancers.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)1812-1818
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Nutrition
Issue number7
StatePublished - 2002


  • Apoptosis
  • Butyrate
  • Caspases
  • Coloncancer


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