Gastric cancers are one of the most common gastrointestinal tumors with proclivity to metastasis. Hypoxia is an important feature in solid tumor microenvironment; accumulating evidence suggests that chronic and repetitive exposure to hypoxia and reoxygenation seems to provide an advantage to tumor growth. However, mechanisms of intermittent hypoxia regulating gastric cancer metastatic potential remain to be elucidated. In the present study, we established the continuous and intermittent gastric cancer hypoxia models, and we compared the effects of these models on gastric cancer cell metastatic potential. Hypoxia-inducible factor-1α (HIF-1α) and hypoxia target protein/genes expression in response to different hypoxia models were analyzed by Western blot, immunofluorescence, and real-time PCR assays. Gastric cancer cell migration and invasion ability were analyzed by wound healing and Boyden chamber assay. Colony formation and tumor spheroid formation assays were used to assess the ability of self-renewal. Stem-related protein OCT4 and HIF-1α expression were also analyzed by confocal immunofluorescence in single tertiary generation spheroid. We demonstrated that the intermittent hypoxia model upregulated expression of both HIF-1α and hypoxia target protein/genes in a time-dependent manner compared with that of SGC-7901 cells cultured under normoxia. Remarkably, HIF-1α protein was more prone to being located in the nucleus of SGC-7901 cells under conditions of intermittent hypoxia. Gastric cancer cells’ migration and invasion ability were significantly enhanced after hypoxic culture; moreover, intermittent hypoxia-conditioned SGC-7901 cells exhibited higher invasiveness than the continuous hypoxia-conditioned SGC-7901 cells. Gastric cancer stem/progenitor cell subpopulation was also enlarged which indicated an enhanced self-renewal ability in hypoxic cultured SGC-7901 cells. Our study emphasizes the significance of hypoxia in regulating gastric cancer cell metastasis potential. Compared with continuous hypoxia, intermittent hypoxia is a more effective and potent hypoxic stimulus. These results provide a new insight to investigate the hypoxic microenvironment within solid tumors.
Gastric cancer Hypoxia Intermittent hypoxia Metastasis Reoxygenation
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We thank Prof. Feng Li for his excellent technical guidance and assistance. This work was support by the National Science Foundation of China (nos. 81272718 and 81302125).
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