The aim of this study was to compare the effects of acetate, propionate, butyrate, iso-butyrate, valerate, iso-valerate and caproate on cell growth and on the activities of alkaline phosphatase (AP) and dipeptidyl aminopeptidase IV (DPP IV) by three human colonic adenocarcinoma cell lines. In addition to butyrate, propionate and valerate inhibited cell proliferation of the three cell lines. The other SCFAs did not influence cell proliferation. AP and DPP IV activities were strongly stimulated by butyrate on two of the three cell lines. On HT-29, AP was strongly stimulated, however DPPIV expression remained undetectable. Propionate and valerate exhibited a weaker stimulation, the other SCFAs being ineffective. The effect of SCFAs on cell proliferation and differentiation clearly depends on the number of carbons and on the configuration of the basic structure of the molecule.