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Cell Prolif. 1995 Aug;28(8):415-30.

Secretion rates and levels of vascular endothelial growth factor in clone A or HCT-8 human colon tumour cells as a function of oxygen concentration.

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Department of Radiation Medicine, Brown University School of Medicine, Providence, Rhode Island 02912, USA.


Molecular and in situ hybridization studies have shown, in a number of cell types, that under hypoxic conditions, vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) mRNA expression is up-regulated and VEGF protein is concomitantly increased. To establish a quantitative relationship between VEGF protein levels and oxygenation, we exposed exponentially growing clone A or HCT-8 human colon tumour cells in vitro (22 h at 37 degrees C) to oxygen concentrations from 21% (air mixture) to 0.01%. Protein levels in cells and medium were then assayed using an enzyme-linked immunoabsorbent assay (ELISA). Intracellular levels of VEGF in clone A or HCT-8 cells exposed to either air (21% O2) or the 0.01% O2 mixture respectively increased from about 73 to 1270, and 1.5 to 1180 pg/10(6) cells (about 17- and 80-fold increases). The shapes of the response curves (log of the intracellular VEGF concentrations v. log oxygen concentration) for both cell types were sigmoidal. However, intracellular VEGF levels in HCT-8 cells were always less than that of clone A cells until levels of about 0.3 to 0.1% O2 were reached. Levels of VEGF in the supernatant were also increased after the 22 h hypoxic exposures. Because cell proliferation and clonogenicity were also measured, it was possible to estimate the secretion rates of VEGF for both cell lines as a function of oxygen percentage. For clone A cells, the secretion rate (pg/10(6) cells/h) in 21% O2 was 62.5. This rate increased to 428.8 pg/10(6) cells/h at 0.01% O2, a 7-fold increase. For HCT-8 cells, levels in the medium at 21% O2 were too low to be measured by ELISA. However, between 10% and 0.01% O2, secretion rates increased from 5.0 to 376.0 pg/10(6) cells/h, a 75-fold increase. Therefore, at very low O2 levels, VEGF secretion rates were similar in the two cell lines. We propose that the different VEGF responses of clone A and HCT-8 colon tumour cells to hypoxic stress in vitro are related to the in vivo observation that the respective hypoxic percentages of solid neoplasms originating from these cell lines are markedly different (i.e. about 3 versus 80%) at equivalent volumes of 750 mm3.

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