Research Papers:

Acidosis promotes invasiveness of breast cancer cells through ROS-AKT-NF-κB pathway

Subash C. Gupta, Ramesh Singh, Radhika Pochampally, Kounosuke Watabe and Yin-Yuan Mo _

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Oncotarget. 2014; 5:12070-12082. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.2514

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Subash C. Gupta1,2, Ramesh Singh1,2, Radhika Pochampally1,2, Kounosuke Watabe1,3 and Yin-Yuan Mo1,4

1 Cancer Institute, University of Mississippi Medical Center, Jackson, MS

2 Department of Biochemistry, University of Mississippi Medical Center, Jackson, MS

3 Department of Microbiology, University of Mississippi Medical Center, Jackson, MS

4 Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, University of Mississippi Medical Center, Jackson, MS


Yin-Yuan Mo, email:

Keywords: Acidosis, AKT, NF-κB, Invasion, breast cancer, inflammation, ROS, tumor microenvironment

Received: August 15, 2014 Accepted: September 24, 2014 Published: September 25, 2014


It is well known that acidic microenvironment promotes tumorigenesis, however, the underlying mechanism remains largely unknown. In the present study, we show that acidosis promotes invasiveness of breast cancer cells through a series of signaling events. First, our study indicates that NF-κB is a key factor for acidosis-induced cell invasion. Acidosis activates NF-κB without affecting STAT3 activity; knockdown of NF-κB p65 abrogates the acidosis-induced invasion activity. Next, we show that the activation of NF-κB is mediated through phosphorylation and degradation of IκBα; and phosphorylation and nuclear translocation of p65. Upstream to NF-κB signaling, AKT is activated under acidic conditions. Moreover, acidosis induces generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) which can be suppressed by ROS scavengers, reversing the acidosis-induced activation of AKT and NF-κB, and invasiveness. As a negative regulator of AKT, PTEN is oxidized and inactivated by the acidosis-induced ROS. Finally, inhibition of NADPH oxidase (NOX) suppresses acidosis-induced ROS production, suggesting involvement of NOX in acidosis-induced signaling cascade. Of considerable interest, acidosis-induced ROS production and activation of AKT and NF-κB can be only detected in cancer cells, but not in non-malignant cells. Together, these results demonstrate a cancer specific acidosis-induced signaling cascade in breast cancer cells, leading to cell invasion.

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