Apoptosis, anoikis and their relevance to the pathobiology of colon cancer

Pathol Int. 2000 Apr;50(4):273-9. doi: 10.1046/j.1440-1827.2000.01047.x.


The maintenance of a constant number of cells in an adult organism is a tightly regulated process. This is particularly important in organs where cells are in a constant rate of renewal during the entire lifespan. In these organs, cell number homeostasis is the direct consequence of a balance between cell proliferation and apoptosis. The colonic epithelium is an example of such a site and the high prevalence of colon cancer makes the understanding of cell number homeostasis more important to define. Normal colonic epithelium is organized in crypts where cell proliferation, migration, differentiation and apoptosis are topographically organized in a linear fashion along the crypt axis. Normal colonic crypts are composed of stem cells at the base, a proliferation and a differentiation zone in the lower third of the crypt, a migration zone in the upper two-thirds, and the surface epithelium where senescent cells are eliminated by apoptosis. Globally, apoptosis can be defined as a normal process of cell suicide, critical for development and tissue homeostasis. Colonic epithelial cells migrate from the base of the crypt to the surface epithelium in 6-7 days. The normal architecture of the crypt is maintained by a balance between cell proliferation at the base and apoptosis at the top of the crypt and surface epithelium.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Apoptosis*
  • Caspases / metabolism
  • Cell Division
  • Cell Movement
  • Colonic Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Colonic Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Humans
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2 / metabolism


  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2
  • Caspases