Lactate enhances motility of tumor cells and inhibits monocyte migration and cytokine release

Int J Oncol. 2011 Aug;39(2):453-63. doi: 10.3892/ijo.2011.1055. Epub 2011 May 25.


In solid malignant tumors, lactate has been identified as a prognostic parameter for metastasis and overall survival of patients. To investigate the effects of lactate on tumor cell migration, Boyden chamber assays were applied. We could show here that lactate enhances tumor cell motility of head and neck carcinoma cell lines significantly in a dose-dependent manner. The changes in tumor cell migration could be attributed to L-lactate or a conversion of lactate to pyruvate, as only these two substances were able to increase migration. Addition of D-lactate or changes in osmolarity or intracellular pH did not alter the migratory potential of the cells investigated. Because lactate was shown earlier to impair the penetration of dendritic cells in a tumor spheroid model, which is contrary to the response of the malignant cell population in the present study, we included blood monocytes in our assay as a highly motile immune cell type and precursor of tumor-associated macrophages. Interestingly, high levels of L-lactate (20 mM) at a pH of 7.4 inhibited monocyte migration in the Boyden chamber system. In addition, cytokine release of TNF and IL-6 was inhibited. The obtained data suggest that high lactate content promotes tumor progression by contributing to the phenomenon of tumor immune escape and by enhancing the migratory potential of the malignant cell population which may directly be coupled to a higher incidence of metastasis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Movement / drug effects*
  • Cytokines / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Integrin beta Chains / metabolism
  • Lactic Acid / pharmacology*
  • Monocytes / drug effects*
  • Monocytes / metabolism*
  • Neoplasms / metabolism*


  • Cytokines
  • Integrin beta Chains
  • Lactic Acid