We have studied the effects of sodium butyrate, retinoic acid, and dimethyl sulfoxide on two human ovarian carcinoma cell lines PE04 and PE01. PE04 cells, after treatment with sodium butyrate at cytostatic doses (2–3 mm for 4 days), exhibited phenotypic changes including induction of alkaline phosphatase and determinants recognized by the monoclonal antibodies 123C3 and 123A8. These effects are not simply the result of cytostasis as they were not produced by dimethyl sulfoxide or retinoic acid. Other markers are also modified by sodium butyrate including lipid, acid mucin, and glycogen. Retinoic acid modulated expression of lipid and CA125, while dimethyl sulfoxide reduced expression of CA125. Other short chain fatty acids such as propionic acid and valeric acid (in addition to butyric acid) also induced alkaline phosphatase and the determinants recognized by 123C3 and 123A8 in PE04 cells. Other differentiation inducers and cytotoxic agents studied did not induce these markers at cytostatic concentrations. The effects of sodium butyrate (and related short chain fatty acids) thus appear to be relatively specific for this cell line.

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Presented in part at the American Association for Cancer Research conference, Atlanta, May 1987.

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