, 16:1054 | Cite as

Deoxycholic and chenodeoxycholic bile acids induce apoptosis via oxidative stress in human colon adenocarcinoma cells

  • Juan Ignacio Barrasa
  • Nieves Olmo
  • Pablo Pérez-Ramos
  • Angélica Santiago-Gómez
  • Emilio Lecona
  • Javier Turnay
  • M. Antonia LizarbeEmail author
Original Paper


The continuous exposure of the colonic epithelium to high concentrations of bile acids may exert cytotoxic effects and has been related to pathogenesis of colon cancer. A better knowledge of the mechanisms by which bile acids induce toxicity is still required and may be useful for the development of new therapeutic strategies. We have studied the effect of deoxycholic acid (DCA) and chenodeoxycholic acid (CDCA) treatments in BCS-TC2 human colon adenocarcinoma cells. Both bile acids promote cell death, being this effect higher for CDCA. Apoptosis is detected after 30 min–2 h of treatment, as observed by cell detachment, loss of membrane asymmetry, internucleosomal DNA degradation, appearance of mitochondrial transition permeability (MPT), and caspase and Bax activation. At longer treatment times, apoptosis is followed in vitro by secondary necrosis due to impaired mitochondrial activity and ATP depletion. Bile acid-induced apoptosis is a result of oxidative stress with increased ROS generation mainly by activation of plasma membrane enzymes, such as NAD(P)H oxidases and, to a lower extent, PLA2. These effects lead to a loss of mitochondrial potential and release of pro-apoptotic factors to the cytosol, which is confirmed by activation of caspase-9 and -3, but not caspase-8. This initial apoptotic steps promote cleavage of Bcl-2, allowing Bax activation and formation of additional pores in the mitochondrial membrane that amplify the apoptotic signal.


Apoptosis Bile acids Caspases Colon adenocarcinoma Reactive oxygen species 



Cholic acid (3α,7α,12α-trihydroxy-5β-cholanoic acid)


Chenodeoxycholic acid (3α,7α-dihydroxy-5β-cholanoic acid)


Deoxycholic acid (3α,12α-dihydroxy-5β-cholanoic acid)


2′,7′-Dichorofluorescein diacetate




Lithocholic acid (3α-hydroxy-5β-cholanic acid)


Lactate dehydrogenase


Mitochondrial transition permeability




Poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase


Phospholipase A2


Reactive oxygen species


Ursodeoxycholic acid (3α,7β-dihydroxy-5β-cholanoic acid)



We are thankful to the staff from the Microscopy and Flow Cytometry Center from the Complutense University of Madrid for their skillful assistance. This work was supported by grants BFU2005-02671 and BFU2008-04758 from the DGES (Spain).

Conflict of interest



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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Juan Ignacio Barrasa
    • 1
  • Nieves Olmo
    • 1
  • Pablo Pérez-Ramos
    • 1
  • Angélica Santiago-Gómez
    • 1
  • Emilio Lecona
    • 1
  • Javier Turnay
    • 1
  • M. Antonia Lizarbe
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Departamento de Bioquímica y Biología Molecular I, Facultad de Ciencias QuímicasUniversidad ComplutenseMadridSpain

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