Research Highlight

Gut ferment byproduct to kill cancer cells

doi:10.1038/nindia.2013.168 Published online 12 December 2013

Researchers have found that a byproduct of anaerobic microbial fermentation inside the gastro-intestinal tract can help kill colorectal cancer cells by arresting their cell cycle.

The byproduct — sodium butyrate (NaBt) — could reach up to 20 mM in the gastro-intestinal tract and has been shown to inhibit the growth of various cancers. The researchers evaluated its effect on fusing cellular mitochondria and inducing apoptosis in colorectal cancer cells.

They found that treating cancer cells with NaBt decreased the cell viability and induced cell cycle arrest. This arrest was due to mitochondria-mediated apoptosis accompanied by a decrease in the expression of survivin and Bcl-2, and generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS). They also found that the level of a key regulator of mitochondrial fission — dynamin-related protein 1 (DRP1) — decreased in the cancer cells. NaBt treatment also resulted in a significant decrease in the mitochondrial mass indicating mitochondrial fusion.

NaBt can modulate mitochondrial fission and fusion by regulating the level of DRP1 and induce cell cycle arrest and apoptosis in human CRC cells.


  1. Tailor, D. et al. Sodium butyrate induces DRP1-mediated mitochondrial fusion and apoptosis in human colorectal cancer cells. Mitochondrion (2013) doi: 10.1016/j.mito.2013.10.004