Gossypol, a male contraceptive drug extracted from cottonseeds, has been found to have antiproliferative activity on tumour cells and is thought to be a potential anticancer drug. The aim of this study was to investigate the mechanisms of gossypol-induced cell death on two colon carcinoma cell lines, HT29 and LoVo. Firstly, we studied the effect of gossypol on the colony forming ability of these tumour cells, which is the main target of chemotherapeutic drugs. Using clonogenic assays, flow cytometry and DNA gel electrophoresis techniques, we have found that gossypol not only inhibited colony forming ability of these tumour cells, but we also observed cellular internucleosomal DNA fragmentation in the cells treated with 3 doses of gossypol and this was accompanied by the appearance of a sub-G1 apoptotic peak and morphological characteristics of apoptosis. Our results suggest that the gossypol induced cell death is via an apoptotic pathway and the effect of gossypol may not be cell cycle specific. Using Western blotting analysis, we found that the gossypol-induced apoptosis may not be involved in the regulation of p53 but possibly associated with the regulation of bcl-2 and Bax expression. Our evidence indicates that gossypol may provide a potential therapeutic benefit for the treatment of colon carcinoma and understanding the mechanisms of gossypol-induced cytotoxicity on tumour cells is essential for including this drug in clinical use.