Background: Genes such as carbonic anhydrase IX (Ca9), glucose transporter 1 (Glut1), lactate dehydrogenase A (LDH-A), osteopontin (OPN) and lysyl oxidase (LOX) have been suggested as hypoxic markers, but inconsistent results suggest that factors other than oxygen influence their expression. The current study is a detailed investigation using a range of pH values from 6.3 to 7.5 in two human cell lines to establish the pH dependency of hypoxia induced gene expression.
Methods: Human tumour cell lines (uterine cervix squamous cell carcinoma (SiHa) and pharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma [FaDu(DD)]) were used. Hypoxia was induced by gassing cells in airtight chambers with various oxygen concentrations (21%, 1%, 0.1%, 0.01% and 0%) for up to 24h. The media were titrated to a range of pH values (7.5, 7.0, 6.7, 6.5 and 6.3). Gene expression was determined by real-time PCR.
Results: In both SiHa and FaDu(DD) cells Ca9 and LOX reached the highest level of expression at 1% oxygen. In FaDu(DD) cells, a pH of 6.5 had a medium suppression effect on the hypoxia induced expression of Ca9. pH 6.3 resulted in severe suppression of expression for Ca9 and LOX in both SiHa and FaDu(DD). Glut1 and LDH-A had a similar expression pattern to each other, with a maximum expression at 0.01% oxygen, in both cell lines. For these genes pH 6.5 and 6.3 changed the expression pattern in SiHa cells. OPN was up regulated at low oxygen in SiHa cells, but was not induced by hypoxia in FaDu(DD) cells.
Conclusion: As tumour hypoxia occurs in a deprived microenvironment, other environmental factors, for example low pH, might interact with the effect of low oxygen concentration on gene expression. This study shows that pH in two cell lines has a profound influence on the oxygen dependent induction of certain endogenous hypoxic markers.