High folic acid increases cell turnover and lowers differentiation and iron content in human HT29 colon cancer cells

E.P.M. Pellis, Y.E.M. Dommels, D.P. Venema, A. van Polanen, E. Lips, H. Baykus, F.J. Kok, E. Kampman, J. Keijer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)


Folate, a water-soluble B vitamin, is a cofactor in one-carbon metabolism and is essential for DNA synthesis, amino acid interconversion, methylation and, consequently, normal cell growth. In animals with existing pre-neoplastic and neoplastic lesions, folic acid supplementation increases the tumour burden. To identify processes that are affected by increased folic acid levels, we compared HT29 human colon cancer cells exposed to a chronic supplemental (100 ng/ml) level of folic acid to cells exposed to a normal (10 ng/ml) level of folic acid, in the presence of vitamin B12 and other micronutrients involved in the folate¿methionine cycle. In addition to higher intracellular folate levels, HT29 cells at 100 ng folic acid/ml displayed faster growth and higher metabolic activity. cDNA microarray analysis indicated an effect on cell turnover and Fe metabolism. We fully confirmed these effects at the physiological level. At 100 ng/ml, cell assays showed higher proliferation and apoptosis, while gene expression analysis and a lower E-cadherin protein expression indicated decreased differentiation. These results are in agreement with the promoting effect of folic acid supplementation on established colorectal neoplasms. The lower expression of genes related to Fe metabolism at 100 ng folic acid/ml was confirmed by lower intracellular Fe levels in the cells exposed to folic acid at 100 ng/ml. This suggests an effect of folate on Fe metabolism
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)703-708
JournalBritish Journal of Nutrition
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2008


  • low-density-lipoprotein
  • folate-deficiency
  • colorectal-cancer
  • gene-expression
  • dna methylation
  • mismatch repair
  • dietary-folate
  • apoptosis
  • disease
  • risk


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