Analysis of proteomic changes induced upon cellular differentiation of the human intestinal cell line Caco-2

Dev Growth Differ. 2011 Apr;53(3):411-26. doi: 10.1111/j.1440-169X.2011.01258.x.


The human intestinal cell line Caco-2 is a well-established model system to study cellular differentiation of human enterocytes of intestinal origin, because these cells have the capability to differentiate spontaneously into polarized cells with morphological and biochemical features of small intestinal enterocytes. Therefore, the cells are widely used as an in vitro model for the human intestinal barrier. In this study, a proteomic approach was used to identify the molecular marker of intestinal cellular differentiation. The proteome of proliferating Caco-2 cells was compared with that of fully differentiated cells. Two-dimensional gel analysis yielded 53 proteins that were differently regulated during the differentiation process. Pathway analysis conducted with those 34 proteins that were identified by matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization-time of flight (MALDI-TOF) analysis revealed subsets of proteins with common molecular and cellular function. It was shown that proteins involved in xenobiotic and drug metabolism as well as in lipid metabolism were upregulated upon cellular differentiation. In parallel, proteins associated with proliferation, cell growth and cancer were downregulated, reflecting the loss of the tumorigenic phenotype of the cells. Thus, the proteomic approach in combination with a literature-based pathway analysis yielded valuable information about the differentiation process of Caco-2 cells on the molecular level that contributes to the understanding of the development of colon cancer or inflammatory diseases such as ulcerative colitis--diseases associated with an imbalanced differentiation process of intestinal cells.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Caco-2 Cells
  • Cell Differentiation / physiology*
  • Cell Proliferation*
  • Colitis, Ulcerative / metabolism
  • Colitis, Ulcerative / pathology
  • Colonic Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Colonic Neoplasms / pathology
  • Enterocytes / cytology
  • Enterocytes / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Proteome / biosynthesis*
  • Proteomics*
  • Spectrometry, Mass, Matrix-Assisted Laser Desorption-Ionization / methods


  • Proteome