Anti-inflammatory properties of the short-chain fatty acids acetate and propionate: a study with relevance to inflammatory bowel disease

World J Gastroenterol. 2007 May 28;13(20):2826-32. doi: 10.3748/wjg.v13.i20.2826.


Aim: To compare the anti-inflammatory properties of butyrate with two other SCFAs, namely acetate and propionate, which have less well-documented effects on inflammation.

Methods: The effect of SCFAs on cytokine release from human neutrophils was studied with ELISA. SCFA-dependent modulation of NF-kappaB reporter activity was assessed in the human colon adenocarcinoma cell line, Colo320DM. Finally, the effect of SCFAs on gene expression and cytokine release, measured with RT-PCR and ELISA, respectively, was studied in mouse colon organ cultures established from colitic mice.

Results: Acetate, propionate and butyrate at 30 mmol/L decreased LPS-stimulated TNFalpha release from neutrophils, without affecting IL-8 protein release. All SCFAs dose dependently inhibited NF-kappaB reporter activity in Colo320DM cells. Propionate dose-dependently suppressed IL-6 mRNA and protein release from colon organ cultures and comparative studies revealed that propionate and butyrate at 30 mmol/L caused a strong inhibition of immune-related gene expression, whereas acetate was less effective. A similar inhibition was achieved with the proteasome inhibitor MG-132, but not the p38 MAPK inhibitor SB203580. All SCFAs decreased IL-6 protein release from organ cultures.

Conclusion: In the present study propionate and butyrate were equipotent, whereas acetate was less effective, at suppressing NF-kappaB reporter activity, immune-related gene expression and cytokine release in vitro. Our findings suggest that propionate and acetate, in addition to butyrate, could be useful in the treatment of inflammatory disorders, including IBD.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Acetates / pharmacology*
  • Adenocarcinoma / metabolism
  • Adenocarcinoma / pathology
  • Animals
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / pharmacology*
  • Butyrates / pharmacology*
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Colonic Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Colonic Neoplasms / pathology
  • Cytokines / metabolism*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation / drug effects
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Inflammatory Bowel Diseases / drug therapy
  • Inflammatory Bowel Diseases / metabolism*
  • Interleukin-6 / genetics
  • Interleukin-6 / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • NF-kappa B / genetics
  • NF-kappa B / metabolism
  • Neutrophils / drug effects
  • Neutrophils / metabolism
  • Propionates / pharmacology*
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / genetics
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / metabolism


  • Acetates
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents
  • Butyrates
  • Cytokines
  • Interleukin-6
  • NF-kappa B
  • Propionates
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha