Tumor Acidosis and Hypoxia Differently Modulate the Inflammatory Program: Measurements In Vitro and In Vivo

Neoplasia. 2017 Dec;19(12):1033-1042. doi: 10.1016/j.neo.2017.09.005. Epub 2017 Nov 14.


Inflammatory mediators produced by the tumor cells are of importance for immune response but also for malignant progression. The aim of the study was to analyze the expression of monocyte chemoattractant protein-1, interleukin-6 (IL-6), tumor necrosis factor-α, inducible isoform of nitric oxide synthase (iNOS), cyclooxygenase-2, and osteopontin in vitro in two different tumor cell lines under hypoxia (pO2≈1.5 mmHg) and/or acidosis (pH=6.6) for up to 24 hours since hypoxia and acidosis are common characteristics of solid tumors. Additionally, the same tumor cell lines implanted in vivo were made hypoxic and acidotic artificially for 24 hours, after which the cytokine expression was measured. Finally, the activation of ERK1/2 and p38 by acidosis/hypoxia and their impact on cytokine expression were studied. The results indicate that acidosis and hypoxia have fundamentally different (often opposing) effects on cytokine expression. In addition, these effects were tumor cell line specific. When combining hypoxia and acidosis, the overall changes reflect an additive effect of both conditions alone, indicating that hypoxia and acidosis act by independent mechanisms. The in vivo changes corresponded well with the results obtained in the isolated tumor cells. Only iNOS expression was downregulated in vivo but increased in cell culture. For IL-6 expression, the acidosis-induced changes were dependent on ERK1/2 activation. In conclusion, it was demonstrated that the environmental pO2 and pH strongly affect the expression of inflammatory mediators in tumor cells. In vivo, most of the inflammatory mediators were downregulated, which could limit the activation of immune cells and by this foster the immune escape of tumors.

MeSH terms

  • Acidosis / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Biomarkers
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cytokines / metabolism
  • Disease Progression
  • Gene Expression
  • Humans
  • Hypoxia / metabolism*
  • Inflammation / genetics
  • Inflammation / metabolism
  • Inflammation / pathology
  • Inflammation Mediators / metabolism
  • MAP Kinase Signaling System
  • Male
  • Neoplasms / genetics
  • Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Rats


  • Biomarkers
  • Cytokines
  • Inflammation Mediators