Email updates

Keep up to date with the latest news and content from BMC Cancer and BioMed Central.

Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

The hypoxic microenvironment upgrades stem-like properties of ovarian cancer cells

Dongming Liang1, Yuanyuan Ma13, Jian Liu5, Claes Goran Trope24, Ruth Holm3, Jahn M Nesland13 and Zhenhe Suo13*

Author Affiliations

1 Departments of Pathology, the Norwegian Radium Hospital, Oslo University Hospital, University of Oslo, Montebello, Ullernchausseen 70, N-0310, Oslo, Norway

2 Departments of Gynaescology, the Norwegian Radium Hospital, Oslo University Hospital, University of Oslo, Montebello, Ullernchausseen 70, N-0310, Oslo, Norway

3 Departments of Pathology, Institute for Clinical Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, University of Oslo, Montebello, Ullernchausseen 70, N-0310, Oslo, Norway

4 Departments of Gynaecology, Institute for Clinical Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, University of Oslo, Montebello, Ullernchausseen 70, N-0310, Oslo, Norway

5 Department of Pathology, Basic Medical College, The First Teaching Hospital of Zhengzhou University, Zhengzhou University, Zhengzhou, Henan Province, China

For all author emails, please log on.

BMC Cancer 2012, 12:201  doi:10.1186/1471-2407-12-201

Published: 29 May 2012

Abstract

Background

To study whether hypoxia influences the stem-like properties of ovarian cancer cells and their biological behavior under hypoxia.

Method

Ovarian cancer cell lines ES-2 and OVCAR-3 were cultivated in different oxygen tensions for proliferation, cell cycling and invasion analyses. The clonogenic potential of cells was examined by colony formation and sphere formation assays. Stem cell surface markers, SP and CD44bright and CD44dim cells were analyzed by flow cytometry. Protein expression of HIF-1α, HIF-2α, Ot3/4 and Sox2 were investigated by Western blotting.

Results

Both cell lines cultivated at hypoxic condition grew relatively slowly with extended G0/G1 phase. However, if the cells were pre-treated under 1% O2 for 48 hrs before brought back to normoxia, the cells showed significantly higher proliferation rate with higher infiltration capability, and significant more colonies and spheres, in comparison to the cells always cultivated under normoxia. CD44bright cells expressed significantly higher levels of Oct3/4 and Sox2 than the CD44dim cells and formed significantly more clones and spheres examined in vitro. Hypoxic treatment of the cells resulted in stronger CD44 expression in both cell lines, and stronger CD133 expression in the OVCAR-3 cell line. In parallel with these findings, significantly increased number of side population (SP) cells and up-regulated expression of Oct3/4 and Sox2 in both ES-2 and OVCAR-3 cell lines were observed.

Conclusion

We conclude that ovarian cancer cells survive hypoxia by upgrading their stem-like properties through up-regulation of stemness-related factors and behave more aggressively when brought back to higher oxygen environment.