Fermentation of dietary fiber within the colonic lumen yields short chain fatty acids (SCFA) such as butyrate, which may modulate colonic mucosal biology and inhibit the development of a malignant phenotype. However, different fibers yield varying proportions of various SCFA. We studied the effects of the three most common SCFA, acetate, butyrate, and propionate, on the proliferation, adhesion, and motility of the human intestinal Caco-2 cell line, as well as the effects of these SCFA on alkaline phosphatase and dipeptidyl dipeptidase specific activity (common laboratory markers of differentiation). In addition, we examined the modulation of c-myc protein and the tyrosine phosphorylation of cellular proteins by these SCFA in order to determine whether the variations in the potency of these three SCFA for phenotypic change extended to variations in effects on intracellular signaling and protooncogene expression. All three SCFA tended to slow proliferation, promote brush border enzyme activity, and inhibit both adhesion to and motility across a type I collagen matrix substrate. However, we observed substantial differences in the potency of these three SCFA with regard to these effects. In particular, butyrate was uniformly more potent than an equimolar concentration of acetate whereas equimolar propionate achieved comparable effects with regard to proliferation and brush border enzyme activity but was intermediate between butyrate and acetate with regard to modulation of cellmatrix interactions. Similarly, the SCFA downregulated c-myc protein levels and modulated the phosphorylation of several intracellular tyrosine phosphoproteins, but the effects of the three SCFA varied substantially for these parameters. These results suggest that the common short chain fatty acids are not equipotent in their effects on human Caco-2 colon cancer cell biology. Such differences in potency could contribute to the observed differences in effects of different dietary fibers in vivo.