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Br J Cancer. 1999 Aug;80(11):1697-707.

Hypoxia-induced metastasis of human melanoma cells: involvement of vascular endothelial growth factor-mediated angiogenesis.

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  • 1Department of Biophysics, Institute for Cancer Research, The Norwegian Radium Hospital, Montebello, Oslo.


Tumour cells exposed to hypoxia have been shown to up-regulate the expression of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF). The purpose of the present work was to investigate whether hypoxia-induced VEGF up-regulation can result in increased metastatic efficiency of human melanoma cells. Two melanoma lines, one showing high (A-07) and the other showing low (D-12) VEGF secretion under aerobic conditions, were included in the study. Cell cultures were exposed to hypoxia (oxygen concentrations < 10 ppm) in vitro and metastatic efficiency, i.e. lung colonization efficiency, as well as transplantability and angiogenic potential were assessed in BALB/c-nu/nu mice Both cell lines showed significantly increased VEGF secretion under hypoxic conditions as measured by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay The D-12 cells showed increased metastatic efficiency, transplantability and angiogenic potential following exposure to hypoxia. The metastatic efficiency increased with the duration of the hypoxia treatment and decreased with the time after reoxygenation. The A-07 cells on the other hand showed unchanged metastatic efficiency, transplantability and angiogenic potential following exposure to hypoxia. Both cell lines showed significantly decreased metastatic efficiency and angiogenic potential in mice treated with neutralizing antibody against VEGF. These results suggest that (a) VEGF is a limiting factor for the rate of angiogenesis in low but not in high VEGF-expressing melanomas under normoxic conditions and (b) transient hypoxia might promote the development of metastases in low VEGF-expressing melanomas by upregulating the expression of VEGF and hence enhancing the angiogenic potential of the tumour cells.

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