Xylitol induces cell death in lung cancer A549 cells by autophagy

Biotechnol Lett. 2015 May;37(5):983-90. doi: 10.1007/s10529-014-1757-1. Epub 2015 Feb 4.


Xylitol is a widely used anti-caries agent that has anti-inflammatory effects. We have evaluated the potential of xylitol in cancer treatment. It's effects on cell proliferation and cytotoxicity were measured by MTT assay and LDH assay. Cell morphology and autophagy were examined by immunostaining and immunoblotting. Xylitol inhibited cell proliferation in a dose-dependent manner in these cancer cells: A549, Caki, NCI-H23, HCT-15, HL-60, K562, and SK MEL-2. The IC50 of xylitol in human gingival fibroblast cells was higher than in cancer cells, indicating that it is more specific for cancer cells. Moreover, xylitol induced autophagy in A549 cells that was inhibited by 3-methyladenine, an autophagy inhibitor. These results indicate that xylitol has potential in therapy against lung cancer by inhibiting cell proliferation and inducing autophagy of A549 cells.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Autophagy / drug effects*
  • Cell Death / drug effects*
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cytological Techniques
  • Epithelial Cells / drug effects*
  • Epithelial Cells / physiology*
  • Formazans / analysis
  • Humans
  • L-Lactate Dehydrogenase / analysis
  • Tetrazolium Salts / analysis
  • Xylitol / toxicity*


  • Formazans
  • Tetrazolium Salts
  • MTT formazan
  • L-Lactate Dehydrogenase
  • Xylitol