Colicins and their potential in cancer treatment

Blood Cells Mol Dis. Jan-Feb 2007;38(1):15-8. doi: 10.1016/j.bcmd.2006.10.006. Epub 2006 Nov 28.


Colicins are a family of antibacterial cytotoxins produced by Escherichia coli and released into the environment to reduce competition from other bacterial strains. Colicins kill the target cell by a variety of effects that include depolarisation of the cytoplasmic membrane, a non-specific DNase activity, a highly specific RNase activity or by inhibition of murein synthesis. This review summarises some important findings that implicate colicins as potential anti-tumor agents. Colicins appear to inhibit proliferation of tumor cell lines in a colicin-type--and cell line-dependent fashion and are more toxic to tumor cells than to normal cells within the body. This opens a potential for using bacterial colicins in combating cancer and raises a number of questions concerning the mechanism of action of colicins in targeting tumor cells, their specificity and applicability as anti-tumor therapeutics.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Colicins / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy*


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Colicins