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Adv Med Sci. 2007;52:83-8.

Molecular basis of sodium butyrate-dependent proapoptotic activity in cancer cells.

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Department of Cell Ultrastructure, Medical Research Centre, Polish Academy of Sciences.


This review outlines the molecular events that accompany the antitumor action of sodium butyrate (NaBt). Butyrate, a low-molecular weight four-carbon chain volatile fatty acid (VFA) has been previously shown to withdraw cells from cell cycle or to promote cell differentiation, and finally to induce programmed cell death. Recent advances in molecular biology indicate, that this product of large bowel microbial fermentation of dietary fiber, might evoke the above-mentioned effects by indirect action on genes. NaBt was shown to inhibit histone deacetylase activity, allowing DNA binding of several transcription factors. Higher genomic activity leads to the higher expression of proapoptotic genes, higher level of their protein products and elevated sensitivity to death ligand-induced apoptosis. Cancer cells might be arrested in G1 phase of cell cycle in a p21-dependent manner. Proapoptotic activity of NaBt includes higher expression of membrane death receptors (DR4/5), higher level and activation of Smad3 protein in TGF-beta-dependent apoptotic pathway, lower level of antiapoptotic proteins (cFLIP, XIAP) and activation ofproapoptotic tBid protein. Thus, both intrinsic and extrinsic apoptotic pathways are stimulated to ampify the apoptotic signals. These effects are specific for tumor but not for regular cells. Unique properties of NaBt make this agent a promising metabolic inhibitor to retard tumorigenesis to suppress tumor growth.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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