Pectin and pectic-oligosaccharides induce apoptosis in in vitro human colonic adenocarcinoma cells

Anticancer Res. 2003 Jan-Feb;23(1A):341-6.


Background: Dietary fibres have been associated with decreased risk of various cancers, although the mechanisms are unclear. Induction of apoptosis in tumour cells is thought to be an important protective mechanism against colorectal cancer. This work investigates the effects of pectins and pectic-oligosaccharides (POS) on the human colonic adenocarcinoma cell line HT29.

Materials and methods: The anti-proliferative effects of pectin and POS were studied by testing the HT29 cells for cytotoxicity, differentiation and/or apoptosis by lactate dehydrogenase, alkaline phosphatase and caspase-3 activity assays. DNA agarose gel electrophoresis was also carried out.

Results: A significant reduction in attached cell numbers was observed after three days incubation. This decrease was neither due to cells undergoing necrosis nor differentiation. Increased apoptosis frequency, after incubation with 1% (w/v) pectin and/or POS, was demonstrated by caspase-3 activity and DNA laddering on agarose gel electrophoresis.

Conclusion: Dietary pectins and their degradation products may contribute to the reported protective effects of fruits against colon cancer.

MeSH terms

  • Adenocarcinoma / drug therapy*
  • Adenocarcinoma / enzymology
  • Adenocarcinoma / pathology*
  • Apoptosis / drug effects*
  • Caspase 3
  • Caspases / metabolism
  • Cell Division / drug effects
  • Colonic Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Colonic Neoplasms / enzymology
  • Colonic Neoplasms / pathology*
  • HT29 Cells
  • Humans
  • Oligosaccharides / pharmacology*
  • Pectins / pharmacology*


  • Oligosaccharides
  • Pectins
  • CASP3 protein, human
  • Caspase 3
  • Caspases