Ciprofloxacin induces apoptosis and inhibits proliferation of human colorectal carcinoma cells

Br J Cancer. 2002 Feb 1;86(3):443-8. doi: 10.1038/sj.bjc.6600079.


Efficacy of chemotherapy in advanced stages of colorectal tumours is limited. The quinolone antibiotic ciprofloxacin was recently shown to inhibit growth and to induce apoptosis in human bladder carcinomas cells. We investigated the effect of ciprofloxacin on colon carcinoma lines in vitro. CC-531, SW-403 and HT-29 colon carcinoma and HepG2 hepatoma cells (control cells) were exposed to ciprofloxacin. Proliferation was assessed by bromodeoxyuridine-incorporation into DNA and apoptosis was measured by flow cytometry after propidium iodide or JC-1 staining. Expression of anti-apoptotic Bcl-2 and pro-apoptotic Bax was analyzed by semiquantitative Western blot analysis and activity of caspases 3, 8 and 9 by substrate-cleavage assays. Ciprofloxacin suppressed DNA synthesis of all colon carcinoma cells time- and dose-dependently, whereas the hepatoma cells remained unaffected. Apoptosis reached its maximum between 200 and 500 microg ml(-1). This was accompanied by an upregulation of Bax and of the activity of caspases 3, 8 and 9, and paralleled by a decrease of the mitochondrial membrane potential. Ciprofloxacin decreases proliferation and induces apoptosis of colon carcinoma cells, possibly in part by blocking mitochondrial DNA synthesis. Therefore, qualification of ciprofloxacin as adjunctive agent for colorectal cancer should be evaluated.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Infective Agents / pharmacology*
  • Apoptosis / drug effects*
  • Caspase 3
  • Caspase 8
  • Caspase 9
  • Caspases / metabolism
  • Cell Division / drug effects*
  • Ciprofloxacin / pharmacology*
  • Colonic Neoplasms
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Enzyme Activation / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Intracellular Membranes / drug effects
  • Intracellular Membranes / physiology
  • Membrane Potentials / drug effects
  • Mitochondria / drug effects
  • Mitochondria / physiology
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured


  • Anti-Infective Agents
  • Ciprofloxacin
  • CASP3 protein, human
  • CASP8 protein, human
  • CASP9 protein, human
  • Caspase 3
  • Caspase 8
  • Caspase 9
  • Caspases