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Sophorolipids are glycolipid biosurfactants consisting of a carbohydrate sophorose head with a fatty acid tail and exist in either an acidic or lactonic form. Sophorolipids are gaining interest as potential cancer chemotherapeutics due to their inhibitory effects on a range of tumour cell lines. Currently, most anti-cancer studies reporting the effects of sophorolipids have focused on lactonic preparations with the effects of acidic sophorolipids yet to be elucidated. We produced a 94% pure acidic sophorolipid preparation which proved to be non-toxic to normal human colonic and lung cells. In contrast, we observed a dose-dependent reduction in viability of colorectal cancer lines treated with the same preparation. Acidic sophorolipids induced apoptosis and necrosis, reduced migration, and inhibited colony formation in all cancer cell lines tested. Furthermore, oral administration of 50 mg kg-1 acidic sophorolipids over 70 days to Apcmin+/- mice was well tolerated and resulted in an increased haematocrit, as well as reducing splenic size and red pulp area. Oral feeding did not affect tumour numbers or sizes in this model. This is the first study to show that acidic sophorolipids dose-dependently and specifically reduces colon cancer cell viability in addition to reducing tumour-associated bleeding in the Apcmin+/- mouse model. KEY POINTS: • Acidic sophorolipids are produced by yeast species such as Starmerella bombicola. • Acidic sophorolipids selectively killed colorectal cells with no effect on healthy gut epithelia. • Acidic sophorolipids reduced tumour-associated gut bleed in a colorectal mouse model. © 2022. The Author(s).


Breedge Callaghan, Matthew S Twigg, Niki Baccile, Inge N A Van Bogaert, Roger Marchant, Christopher A Mitchell, Ibrahim M Banat. Microbial sophorolipids inhibit colorectal tumour cell growth in vitro and restore haematocrit in Apcmin+/- mice. Applied microbiology and biotechnology. 2022 Sep;106(18):6003-6016

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PMID: 35965289

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