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Exp Cell Res. 1987 Sep;172(1):65-75.

Relationship between cytoplasmic pH and proliferation during exponential growth and cellular quiescence.

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  • 1Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research (Sydney Branch), University of Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.


Flow cytometry was used to measure intracellular pH (pHi) on an individual cell basis during exponential and plateau phases of growth. In all three cell lines examined a range of pHi values was associated with exponential growth. When cells from the extremes of the pHi distribution were sorted using a fluorescence-activated cell sorter and then restained for cellular DNA content, it was found that the higher pHi values were associated with enrichment of the S, G2, and M phases of the cell cycle, with a corresponding increase in the percentage of G1 cells at the lower pH1 range, suggesting cell-cycle dependence of pHi. It has been shown previously (I. W. Taylor and P. Hodson, 1984, J. Cell Physiol. 121, 517) that PMC-22 human melanoma cells are capable of entering a distinct pH-dependent quiescent state in response to the acidification of the growth medium which occurs naturally during growth to plateau phase. Simultaneous measurement of pHi and external pH showed that under these conditions pHi was maintained at control values down to an external pH of approximately 6.5, below which cytoplasmic acidification took place. This fall in pHi coincided with the onset of the transition to quiescence. Individual quiescent cells (defined by failure to incorporate bromodeoxyuridine during a 24-h exposure) could not be identified as such on the basis of a low pHi, suggesting that the probability of cell cycling is reduced by lowering pHi. Those cells which remained in cycle showed a markedly reduced rate of DNA synthesis, but a cell-cycle phase distribution similar to that in exponential growth, indicating that prolongation of all cell-cycle phases is an additional factor influencing overall population growth. The external pH at which both of these effects on cell proliferation kinetics took place in vitro is similar to that which occurs regionally within solid tumors, suggesting that pH effects could play a significant role in determining tumor cell growth in vivo.

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