Bile acids are strongly implicated in the etiology of colon cancer. Bile acids also induce apoptosis, and this action may be a key to understanding their role in colon cancer. However the mechanism of bile acid induction of apoptosis is not known. We present evidence of bile acid activation of the gadd153 promoter (a promoter activated by DNA damaging agents). We also show that bile acid induction of apoptosis is p53-independent. In addition, bile salts were found to induce blebbing preceding the actual morphological onset of apoptosis, which indicates early cytoskeletal alterations.