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Cancer Res. 2009 Jan 1;69(1):358-68. doi: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-08-2470.

Hypoxia-inducible carbonic anhydrase IX and XII promote tumor cell growth by counteracting acidosis through the regulation of the intracellular pH.

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  • 1Institute of Developmental Biology and Cancer Research University of Nice, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique UMR 6543, Centre A. Lacassagne, 33 Avenue Valombrose, Nice, France.


Acidosis of the tumor microenvironment is typical of a malignant phenotype, particularly in hypoxic tumors. All cells express multiple isoforms of carbonic anhydrase (CA), enzymes catalyzing the reversible hydration of carbon dioxide into bicarbonate and protons. Tumor cells express membrane-bound CAIX and CAXII that are controlled via the hypoxia-inducible factor (HIF). Despite the recognition that tumor expression of HIF-1alpha and CAIX correlates with poor patient survival, the role of CAIX and CAXII in tumor growth is not fully resolved. To understand the advantage that tumor cells derive from expression of both CAIX and CAXII, we set up experiments to either force or invalidate the expression of these enzymes. In hypoxic LS174Tr tumor cells expressing either one or both CA isoforms, we show that (a) in response to a "CO(2) load," both CAs contribute to extracellular acidification and (b) both contribute to maintain a more alkaline resting intracellular pH (pH(i)), an action that preserves ATP levels and cell survival in a range of acidic outside pH (6.0-6.8) and low bicarbonate medium. In vivo experiments show that ca9 silencing alone leads to a 40% reduction in xenograft tumor volume with up-regulation of ca12 mRNA levels, whereas invalidation of both CAIX and CAXII gives an impressive 85% reduction. Thus, hypoxia-induced CAIX and CAXII are major tumor prosurvival pH(i)-regulating enzymes, and their combined targeting shows that they hold potential as anticancer targets.

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