The present study examined the SM cycle as a mechanism to explain the inhibitory effect of SIT on HT-29 cell growth. SIT was the main phytosterol in the diet. Supplementation of SIT at 16 microM for 5 days in the media inhibited growth by 55% as compared to cholesterol. SIT supplementation had no effect on sphingosine production. Ceramide production increased 45% with SIT supplementation as compared to cholesterol. Sterol supplementation had no effect on phospholipase C, a key enzyme in the PKC pathway. We concluded that the activation of the SM cycle may play a role in growth inhibition of HT-29 cells by SIT.