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Cancer Res. 2001 Jul 15;61(14):5630-5.

Absence of Crabtree effect in human melanoma cells adapted to growth at low pH: reversal by respiratory inhibitors.

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  • 1Departments of Radiation Oncology, Kimmel Cancer Center, Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19107, USA.


Because many tumors are acidic and hypoxic relative to normal tissues, glycolysis and oxygen consumption were investigated in early-passage human melanoma cells adapted to growth at pH 6.7. In the absence of glucose, the basal rate of oxygen consumption in low pH-adapted cells was 75% of that in cells grown at pH 7.3. The rate of lactic acid production in low pH-adapted cells was increased 4-fold by exposure to 16.7 mM glucose compared with a 10-fold increase in cells grown at pH 7.3. Furthermore, in low pH-adapted cells the rate of oxygen consumption was stimulated by the addition of glucose in contrast to the inhibition of oxygen consumption by elevated glucose in cells grown at pH 7.3 (i.e., the Crabtree effect). Both low pH-adapted cells and cells grown at pH 7.3 exposed to glucose plus 0.35 mM meta-iodo-benzylguanidine (MIBG), an inhibitor of mitochondrial respiration, had oxygen consumption reduced by approximately 60% and lactic acid production increased by approximately 65% relative to glucose alone. Although adaptation to growth at low pH was associated with a loss of the Crabtree effect and a higher ratio of oxygen consumption to lactic acid production, the rate of glycolysis was the same in both growth conditions in the presence of 0.1 mM dinitrophenol, an uncoupler of ATP synthesis. This indicates that the glycolytic capacity of low pH-adapted cells remains unchanged. Therefore, tumor acute acidification and oxygenation can be achieved by exposure to hyperglycemia combined with MIBG to improve therapeutic response.

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