Hypoxic Microenvironment Induces EMT and Upgrades Stem-Like Properties of Gastric Cancer Cells

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Hypoxia microenvironment, as a major feature of solid tumors, increases tumors progression and metastasis. To research whether hypoxia influences the epithelial–mesenchymal transition (EMT) and cancer stem cells (CSCs) of gastric cancer cells and their cell biological behaviors. Human gastric cancer cell lines BGC823 and SGC7901 were cultivated in different oxygen tensions for proliferation, colony formation, soft agar formation, migration, and invasion analyses. Markers of EMT (E-cadherin, N-cadherin, Vimentin, and Snail) and markers of CSCs (Sox2, Oct4, and Bmi1) were investigated by real-time polymerase chain reaction, Western blotting, and immunofluorescent analysis. Cultivated at hypoxic condition, BGC823 and SGC7901 cells morphology began to change significantly. The cells pretreated under hypoxia grew faster than those cells always cultivated in normoxia. Meanwhile, hypoxia pretreatment dramatically promoted cell proliferation, migration and invasion, and increased capability of colony and soft agar colony formation. Furthermore, under hypoxia, E-cadherin decreased and N-cadherin, Vimentin, Snail, Sox2, Oct4, and Bmi1 increased both on the level of messenger RNA and protein. We drew a conclusion that the hypoxic microenvironment induced EMT, upgraded stem-like properties of gastric cancer cells, promoted invasion and metastasis, and behaved more malignantly.

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