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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1993 Feb 1;90(3):1127-31.

Studies with glycolysis-deficient cells suggest that production of lactic acid is not the only cause of tumor acidity.

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Department of Medical Biophysics, University of Toronto, ONT, Canada.


Solid tumors have been observed to develop an acidic extracellular environment, which is believed to occur as a result of lactic acid accumulation produced during aerobic and anaerobic glycolysis. Experiments using glycolysis-deficient ras-transfected Chinese hamster lung fibroblasts have been performed to test the hypothesis that lactic acid production within solid tumors is responsible for the development of tumor acidity. The variant cells have defects in glucose transport and in the glycolytic enzyme phosphoglucose isomerase with 1% activity compared to parental cells. Consequently, the in vitro rate of lactic acid production by variant cells was < 4% compared to parental cells. An in vitro correlation between lactic acid production and acidification of exposure medium was observed for parental and variant cells. Implantation of both cell lines into nude mice led to tumors with minimal difference in growth rate. As expected, variant cells died when exposed to hypoxic conditions in culture, and parental tumors were observed to have a larger fraction of cells resistant to radiation due to hypoxia (27%) than variant tumors (2%). Using pH microelectrodes, parental (n = 12) and variant (n = 12) tumors were observed to have extracellular pH (pHe) values of 6.65 +/- 0.07 and 6.78 +/- 0.04 (mean +/- SE, P = 0.13), respectively, whereas normal muscle had a pHe of 7.29 +/- 0.06 (P < 0.0001 for both cell lines). The lactic acid content of variant tumors was found to be similar to that in serum, whereas parental tumors had lactic acid content that was higher than in serum (P < 0.0001). We conclude that there was no correlation between lactic acid content and acidosis for these tumors derived from ras-transfected fibroblasts. These results provide evidence that the production of lactic acid via glycolysis is not the only mechanism responsible for the development of an acidic environment within solid tumors.

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