In order to study the effect of glucose on the differentiation of cultured human colon cancer cells, a subpopulation of HT-29 cells was selected for its capacity to grow in the total absence of sugar. These cells (GIccells) exhibit, after confluency, an enterocytic differentiation, in contrast to cells grown with glucose (Glc+ cells), which always remain undifferentiated. The differentiation is characterized by a polarization of the cell layer with apical brush borders and tight junctions, and by the presence of sucrase-isomaltase. The differentiation of Glccells is reversible: the addition of glucose to postcon-fluent cultures of Glc cells results in an inhibiting effect on the expression of sucrase-isomaltase; switching growing cultures of Glccells to the Glc+ medium for several passages results in a progressive reversion to the undifferentiated state, which is completed after seven passages. The dedifferentiation process is associated with a parallel, passage-related, increase in the rates of glucose consumption and lactic acid production, and decreases of intracellular glycogen content, which return to the values of the undifferentiated original Glc+ cells. The values of these metabolic parameters are correlated, at each passage, with the degree of dedifferentiation of the cells. When these dedifferentiated cells, after having been cultured in Glc+ medium for 20 passages, are switched back to the Glc medium, they readily grow without mortality, and reexpress the same enterocytic differentiation as the parent Glc cells. These results show that the capacity of this subpopulation to grow and differentiate in the absence of sugar is a stable characteristic. They further suggest that glucose metabolism interferes with the program of differentiation of HT-29 cells.