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Tributyrin-induced differentiation promotes apoptosis of LS 174T colon cancer cells in vitro

Institut für Pharmazie der Freien Universität Berlin, Abteilung für Pharmazeutische
Biotechnologie und Molekularbiologie, Germany
Received August 8, 2001; Accepted October 13, 2001

Tributyrin (glyceryl tributyrate, TB) is known to induce malignant cells to differentiate followed by arrest of cell growth and death via apoptosis. We investigated the effects of TB on the distribution of cell cycle phases, differentiation as measured by alkaline phosphatase activity (ALP), and apoptosis of LS 174T colon cancer cells expressed by morphological changes, externalization of phosphatidylserine and stimulation of various caspases. TB (0.6 mM) reduced the proliferation by a 5-fold decrease of tumor cells in the S-phase and 1.3-fold increase in the G2/M-phase of cell cycle after 24 h of incubation. The ALP activity was enhanced in a dose-dependent manner up to 180-fold by 1 mM TB. Apoptosis was seen only above 0.6 mM TB (5-fold increase). Studies with caspase inhibitors revealed that TB mediated cell death was linked to up-regulation of caspases 3 and 8. Our results indicate that TB-induced differentiation promotes apoptosis in LS 174T cells and may explain the mode of action of TB finally resulting in an arrest of tumor cell growth.