Effects of butyrate on the colon cancer cell phenotype-chemosensitization and upregulation of proteins implicated in cancer progression

Philip John Bergman, The University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Houston


Colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer mortality in the U.S. Surgery is the only truly effective human colon cancer (HCC) therapy due to marked intrinsic drug resistance. The inefficacy of therapies developed for metastatic HCC suggests that advances in colon cancer chemoprevention and chemotherapy will be needed to reduce HCC mortality. The dietary fiber metabolite butyrate (NaB) is a candidate cancer chemopreventive agent that inhibits growth, promotes differentiation and stimulates apoptosis of HCC cells. Epidemiological and experimental studies suggest that dietary fiber protects against the development of HCC, however, recent large prospective trials have not found significant protection. The first central hypothesis of this dissertation project is that the diversity of phenotypic changes induced by NaB in HCC cells includes molecular alterations that oppose its chemopreventive action and thereby limit its efficacy. We investigated the effect of NaB on the expression/activity of epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) and cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) in HCC HT29 cells. NaB treatment induced a 13-fold increase in EGFR expression in concert with its chemopreventive action in vitro, i.e., induction of growth suppression and G1 arrest, apoptosis and a differentiated phenotype. NaB-induced EGFR was active based on multiple lines of evidence. The EGFR was: (1) heavily phosphorylated at Tyrosine (P-Tyr); (2) associated with the cytoskeleton; (3) localized at the cell surface, and activated in response to EGF; and (4) NaB treatment of the cells induced activation of the EGFR effector Erk1/2. NaB treatment also induced a 7-fold increase in COX-2 expression. The NaB-induced COX-2 was active based on significantly increased PGE2 production. The second central hypothesis is that NaB treatment would render HCC cells more chemosensitive to chemotherapy agents based on the increased apoptotic index induced by NaB. NaB treatment chemosensitized HT29 cells to 5-FU and doxorubicin, despite increases in the expression of P-glycoprotein and a related drug resistance protein (MRP). These results raise the intriguing possibility that the chemopreventive effects of fiber may require concomitant treatment with EGFR and/or COX-2 inhibitors. Similarly, NaB may be a rational drug to combine with existing chemotherapeutic agents for the management of advanced HCC patients.

Subject Area

Oncology|Cellular biology|Molecular biology|Nutrition

Recommended Citation

Bergman, Philip John, "Effects of butyrate on the colon cancer cell phenotype-chemosensitization and upregulation of proteins implicated in cancer progression" (1999). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI9942085.