The intrinsic mitochondrial membrane potential (Deltapsim) is associated with steady-state mitochondrial activity and the extent to which colonic epithelial cells undergo butyrate-mediated growth arrest and apoptosis

Cancer Res. 2003 Oct 1;63(19):6311-9.


Transformation of colonic epithelial cells is characterized by decreased mitochondrial activity, increased mitochondrial membrane potential (Deltapsi(m)), and disruptions in the equilibrium between cell proliferation and death by apoptosis. We have previously shown that an intact Deltapsi(m) is essential for growth arrest and apoptosis induced by butyrate, a physiological regulator of maturation in these cells, suggesting a role for the Deltapsi(m) in the initiation and integration of proliferation and apoptotic pathways. To extend this work, we have generated isogenic cell lines, from SW620 human colonic carcinoma cells, which exhibit significant differences in intrinsic Deltapsi(m). These differences in Deltapsi(m) are not linked to alterations in viability, Bcl-2 levels, or the differentiation status of the cells. However, compared with parental cells and those with increased Deltapsi(m), cells with decreased intrinsic Deltapsi(m) exhibit significantly higher levels of steady-state mitochondrial mRNA and butyrate-induced p21(WAF1/Cip1) and G(0)-G(1) arrest. Moreover, despite butyrate-mediated translocation of proapoptotic Bax and Bak to the mitochondria, fewer cells with elevated intrinsic Deltapsi(m) exhibit concomitant cytochrome c release, and cells with elevated Deltapsi(m) undergo significantly lower levels of Deltapsi(m) dissipation and apoptosis than parental cells, or cells with decreased Deltapsi(m). Homeostasis of the colonic mucosa depends on balancing cell proliferation with apoptosis, and mitochondrial abnormalities are associated with disruptions in this balance. Thus, by affecting steady-state mitochondrial activity and the extent to which cells enter growth arrest and apoptotic cascades, these data establish a role for the intrinsic Deltapsi(m) in contributing to the probability of colonic tumorigenesis and progression.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Apoptosis / drug effects
  • Apoptosis / physiology
  • Butyrates / pharmacology*
  • Cell Division / drug effects
  • Cell Division / physiology
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Colonic Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Cytochromes c / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Intracellular Membranes / drug effects
  • Intracellular Membranes / physiology
  • Membrane Potentials / drug effects
  • Membrane Potentials / physiology
  • Membrane Proteins / metabolism
  • Mitochondria / drug effects
  • Mitochondria / genetics
  • Mitochondria / metabolism
  • Mitochondria / physiology*
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins / metabolism
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2 / metabolism
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • bcl-2 Homologous Antagonist-Killer Protein
  • bcl-2-Associated X Protein


  • BAK1 protein, human
  • BAX protein, human
  • Butyrates
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2
  • RNA, Messenger
  • bcl-2 Homologous Antagonist-Killer Protein
  • bcl-2-Associated X Protein
  • Cytochromes c