The role of diet related short-chain fatty acids in colorectal cancer metabolism and survival: prevention and therapeutic implications

Sara Daniela Gomes, Cláudia Suellen Oliveira, João Azevedo-Silva, Marta R. Casanova, Judite Barreto, Helena Pereira, Susana R. Chaves, Lígia R. Rodrigues, Margarida Casal, Manuela Côrte-Real, Fátima Baltazar, Ana Preto*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

82 Citations (Scopus)


Colorectal Cancer (CRC) is a major cause of cancer-related death worldwide. CRC increased risk has been associated with alterations in the intestinal microbiota, with decreased production of Short Chain Fatty Acids (SCFAs). SCFAs produced in the human colon are the major products of bacterial fermentation of undigested dietary fiber and starch. While colono-cytes use the three major SCFAs, namely acetate, propionate and butyrate, as energy sources, transformed CRC cells primarily undergo aerobic glycolysis. Compared to normal colono-cytes, CRC cells exhibit increased sensitivity to SCFAs, thus indicating they play an important role in cell homeostasis. Manipulation of SCFA levels in the intestine, through changes in microbiota, has therefore emerged as a potential preventive/therapeutic strategy for CRC. Interest in understanding SCFAs mechanism of action in CRC cells has increased in the last years. Several SCFA transporters like SMCT-1, MCT-1 and aquaporins have been identified as the main transmembrane transporters in intestinal cells. Recently, it was shown that acetate promotes plasma membrane re-localization of MCT-1 and triggers changes in the glucose me-tabolism. SCFAs induce apoptotic cell death in CRC cells, and further mechanisms have been discovered, including the involvement of lysosomal membrane permeabilization, associated with mitochondria dysfunction and degradation. In this review, we will discuss the current knowledge on the transport of SCFAs by CRC cells and their effects on CRC metabolism and survival. The impact of increasing SCFA production by manipulation of colon microbiota on the prevention/therapy of CRC will also be ad-dressed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4087-4108
Number of pages22
JournalCurrent Medicinal Chemistry
Issue number24
Publication statusPublished - 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Cell death
  • Cell death mechanism
  • Colorectal cancer
  • Membrane transport
  • Metabolism
  • Microbiota
  • Short chain fatty acids


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