Acidic pH stimulates the production of the angiogenic CXC chemokine, CXCL8 (interleukin-8), in human adult mesenchymal stem cells via the extracellular signal-regulated kinase, p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase, and NF-kappaB pathways

J Cell Biochem. 2008 Jul 1;104(4):1378-92. doi: 10.1002/jcb.21714.


Blood vessel injury results in limited oxygen tension and diffusion leading to hypoxia, increased anaerobic metabolism, and elevated production of acidic metabolites that cannot be easily removed due to the reduced blood flow. Therefore, an acidic extracellular pH occurs in the local microenvironment of disrupted bone. The potential role of acidic pH and glu-leu-arg (ELR(+)) CXC chemokines in early events in bone repair was studied in human mesenchymal stem cells (hMSCs) treated with medium of decreasing pH (7.4, 7.0, 6.7, and 6.4). The cells showed a reciprocal increase in CXCL8 (interleukin-8, IL-8) mRNA levels as extracellular pH decreased. At pH 6.4, CXCL8 mRNA was induced >60x in comparison to levels at pH 7.4. hMSCs treated with osteogenic medium (OGM) also showed an increase in CXCL8 mRNA with decreasing pH; although, at a lower level than that seen in cells grown in non-OGM. CXCL8 protein was secreted into the medium at all pHs with maximal induction at pH 6.7. Inhibition of the G-protein-coupled receptor alpha, G(alphai), suppressed CXCL8 levels in response to acidic pH; whereas phospholipase C inhibition had no effect on CXCL8. The use of specific mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) signal transduction inhibitors indicated that the pH-dependent increase in CXCL8 mRNA is due to activation of ERK and p38 pathways. The JNK pathway was not involved. NF-kappaB inhibition resulted in a decrease in CXCL8 levels in hMSCs grown in non-OGM. However, OGM-differentiated hMSCs showed an increase in CXCL8 levels when treated with the NF-kappaB inhibitor PDTC, a pyrrolidine derivative of dithiocarbamate.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Acids / pharmacology*
  • Adult
  • Bone Regeneration
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Durapatite / pharmacology
  • Humans
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Interleukin-8 / biosynthesis*
  • Interleukin-8 / drug effects
  • Mesenchymal Stem Cells / metabolism*
  • NF-kappa B / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction
  • p38 Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases / metabolism*


  • Acids
  • Interleukin-8
  • NF-kappa B
  • Durapatite
  • p38 Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases