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Cancer. 2011 Dec 1;117(23):5294-303. doi: 10.1002/cncr.26205. Epub 2011 May 11.

Interactive effects of fatty acid and butyrate-induced mitochondrial Ca²⁺ loading and apoptosis in colonocytes.

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  • 1Program in Integrative Nutrition and Complex Diseases, Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas, USA.



The combination of fish oil-derived docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) (22:6; omega 3 [n-3]) and butyrate (4:0), a fiber fermentation product, synergized to enhance colonocyte apoptosis by inducing a p53-independent, oxidation sensitive, mitochondrial Ca(2+) -dependent (intrinsic) pathway.


In this study, the authors probed the specificity of n-6 and n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid induction of Ca(2+) -dependent proapoptotic events in immortalized young adult mouse colonocytes and determined whether combinations of polyunsaturated fatty acid and butyrate could trigger endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress conditions, thereby promoting mitochondrial Ca(2+) overload. Cultures were treated with 0 μM to 50 μM of DHA (22:6; n-3), EPA (20:5; n-3), arachidoinic acid (AA) (20:4; n-6), linoleic acid (18:2; n-6), or oleic acid (OA) (18:1; n-9) for a total of 72 hours with or without RU-360 (to inhibit the mitochondrial Ca(2+) uniporter) for 30 minutes before cotreatment with butyrate (0 mM or 5 mM).


Combined DHA and butyrate maximally induced apoptosis and mitochondrial-to-cytosolic Ca(2+) levels. By comparison, EPA, a precursor to DHA, was minimally effective. Similarly, AA and OA in combination with butyrate had no effect on mitochondrial Ca(2+) or apoptosis compared with butyrate alone. DHA with or without butyrate cotreatment minimally altered the ER stress-regulated genes DNA damage-inducible transcript 3, the CCAAT enhancer binding protein (C/EBP) homologous protein (CHOP), and eukaryotic initiation factor 2α.


The current data indicated that butyrate and DHA, but not EPA, worked in a coordinated fashion to trigger an ER-independent, Ca(2+) -dependent, intrinsic mitochondrial-mediated apoptotic pathway in colonocytes.

Copyright © 2011 American Cancer Society.

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