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Date of Award


Document Type

Dissertation - Pacific Access Restricted

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


Pharmaceutical and Chemical Sciences

First Advisor

John Livesey

First Committee Member

John Livesey

Second Committee Member

Roshanak Rahimian

Third Committee Member

Wade Russu

Fourth Committee Member

Timothy Smith

Fifth Committee Member

Lisa Wrischnik


Tumor microenvironmental conditions play a vital role in promoting metastasis and tumor recurrence. Due to inefficient vasculature, cancer cells experience hypoxia, glucose deprivation and low pH even during the early stages of tumor growth. Tumor cells are proposed to adapt to these microenvironmental conditions by acquiring increased migratory and invasion potential and tumor initiating ability. Our research addresses the effect of these biochemical factors of the tumor microenvironment (TME) on motility, epithelial to mesenchymal transition (EMT) and stemness of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). NCI-H292 and NCI-H1650 NSCLC cell lines were used to measure the effect of the above mentioned TME conditions. Apart from acidic pH, low glucose and hypoxia, the effect of high glucose conditions was also measured on H292 and H1650 cell lines. Acidic pH, high and low glucose conditions were observed to have no effect on the motility, EMT and stemness of H1650 cell line. Hence, use of this cell line was discontinued and no further treatment conditions were tested on this cell line. In H292 cell line, acidic pH, low glucose and tumor like conditions combined together (acidic pH + low glucose + hypoxia) [AP+LG+HYP] significantly decreased motility whereas hypoxia significantly increased the motility of H292 cells. High glucose did not affect the motility of H292 cells. Although N-cadherin, a mesenchymal marker, expression was significantly upregulated by acidic pH, high and low glucose conditions, no direct correlation was observed between N-cadherin expression and motility. E-cadherin expression was not affected by acidic pH, high and low glucose conditions. An increase in N-cadherin expression and no change in E-cadherin expression under these conditions might be an indication of partial EMT. Hypoxia and AP+LG+HYP did not alter the expression of E-cadherin and N-cadherin. Although expression of vimentin, another mesenchymal marker, and Sox2, a cancer stem cell marker (CSC), was observed at the mRNA level, no expression of vimentin and Sox2 proteins was observed in H292 cells under any of these treatment conditions. The expression of OCT4, another CSC marker, was also not observed at the protein level in H292 cells. HIF-1α expression was observed in H292 cells under normoxic conditions and was unaffected by hypoxia and AP+LG+HYP. Therefore our research indicates that the effect of these TME conditions might be different on different cancer cell lines or cancer types. Not all cancers may depend on EMT for metastasis. An increase in metastasis under hypoxia may be independent of HIF-1α.





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