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Acta Gastroenterol Belg. 2013 Dec;76(4):372-80.

Apoptotic block in colon cancer cells may be rectified by lentivirus mediated overexpression of caspase-9.

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Institute of Respiratory Diseases, West China Hospital, Sichuan University, Chengdu 610041, PR China.
Department of Gastrointestinal Surgery & Institute of Digestive Surgery, West China Hospital, Sichuan University, Chengdu 610041, PR China.



At present, the inhibition of apoptosis during pathogenesis of colorectal cancer is widely recognized while the role of caspase-9 in this process remains controversial. We aimed to investigate the differential expression of caspase-9 and evaluate the therapeutic potential of expression intervention in this study.


We first examined the different expression of caspase-9 in normal colon mucosa, adenoma and cancer, investigating the relationship between its expression and clinico-pathological characteristics. Secondly, overexpression of caspase-9 was established in colon cancer cell lines by lentivirus infection to study the changes in growth, proliferation and apoptosis.


Compared with normal colon mucosa, the expression of caspase-9 was higher in adenoma while lower in cancer both at mRNA and protein level (P < 0.05). In addition, the down-regulation of caspase-9 expression is more common in poorly differentiated cancers (P < 0.05). Concerning cell lines, overexpression cell groups showed higher expression of caspase-9, poorer colony formation and slower cell proliferation. In terms of apoptosis related indicators, caspase-9 overexpression leads to higher apoptosis rate and GO/G1 arrest, while up-regulating the expression of caspase-3 (P <0.05). Interestingly, down-regulation of carcinoembryonic antigen secretion was also observed in caspase-9 overexpression cells (P <0.05).


The change of caspase-9 expression from colon mucosa, adenoma to cancer suggested it may be involved in the carcinogenesis of colon cancer. The overexpression of caspase-9 exhibits an inhibitory role in cancer growth and proliferation while promoting apoptosis. However, a non-apoptotic role of caspase-9 facilitating differentiation was also implied.

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