Purpose: To determine whether intracellular pH (pHi) is affected during hyperthermia in substrate-attached cells and whether acute extracellular acidification potentiates the cytotoxicity of hyperthermia via an effect on pHi.
Methods and materials: The pHi was determined in cells attached to extracellular matrix proteins loaded with the fluorescent indicator dye BCECF at 37 degrees C and during 42 degrees C hyperthermia at an extracellular pH (pHe) of 6.7 or 7.3 in cells. Effects on pHi during hyperthermia are compared to effects on clonogenic survival after hyperthermia at pHe 7.3 and 6.7 of cells grown at pHe 7.3, or of cells grown and monitored at pHe 6.7.
Results: The results show that pHi values are affected by substrate attachments. Cells attached to extracellular matrix proteins had better signal stability, low dye leakage and evidence of homeostatic regulation of pHi during heating. The net decrease in pHi in cells grown and assayed at pHe = 7.3 during 42 degrees C hyperthermia was 0.28 units and the decrease in low pH adapted cells heated at pHe = 6.7 was 0.14 units. Acute acidification from pHe = 7.3 to pHe = 6.7 at 37 degrees C caused an initial reduction of 0.5-0.8 unit in pHi, but a partial recovery followed during the next 60-90 min. Concurrent 42 degrees C hyperthermia caused the same initial reduction in pHi in acutely acidified cells, but inhibited the partial recovery that occurred during the next 60-90 min at 37 degrees C. After 4 h at 37 degrees C, the net change in pHi in acutely acidified cells was 0.30 pH unit, but at 42 degrees C is 0.63 pH units. The net change in pHi correlated inversely with clonogenic survival.
Conclusions: Hyperthermia causes a pHi reduction in cells which was smaller in magnitude by 50% in low pH adapted cells. Hyperthermia inhibited the partial recovery from acute acidification that was observed at 37 degrees C in substrate attached cells, in parallel with a lower subsequent clonogenic survival.