BACKGROUND/AIMS: Compared with normal colonic mucosa, lectin receptor expression is increased in hyperplastic and neoplastic tissues; some lectins have been shown to influence human colonic epithelial cell proliferation. The aim was to assess further the influence of five lectins (Phaseolus vulgaris (PNA), Griffonia simplicifolia (GSA), concanavalin A (Con A), wheat germ (WGA), and peanut (PHA-L) agglutinins) on cellular growth in three human colorectal cancer cell lines (LoVo, HCT-15 and SW837). METHODS: Cells were cultured in four lectin concentrations (0.1, 1.0, 10, and 100 micrograms/ml) and growth assessed at days 2, 3, 5, and 7. The experiments were performed in media supplemented with either 1% or 10% fetal calf serum (FCS). Growth was assessed using the MTT (3-(4,5)-dimethylthiazol-2-yl)-2,5-diphenyl tetrazolium bromide) colorimetric assay. RESULTS: Growth in each cell line was greatly affected by at least two of the lectins tested. There was some variation in the effect of a given lectin on different cell lines. Lectin effects showed a dose-response and the greatest effects generally resulted from the highest concentrations at the longest culture time. WGA and Con A induced large effects in all cell lines; the effects of Con A were partly blocked by the higher concentration of FCS. PNA had modest and uniform stimulatory effects overall. The effects of GSA and PHA-L varied between cell lines. CONCLUSIONS: The lectins studied all have the potential to affect colonic cancer growth in vitro. Many dietary lectins are resistant to digestion and may have important effects in vitro but the definition of their role in human colonic cancer biology must take into account the variability in lectin response.
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