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Hypoxia modulates the stem cell population and induces EMT in the MCF-10A breast epithelial cell line

Daly, Carl S.; Flemban, Arwa; Shafei, Mai; Conway, Myra E; Qualtrough, David; Dean, Sarah J


Carl S. Daly

Arwa Flemban

Mai Shafei

Myra Conway
Occasional Associate Lecturer - HAS DAS

David Qualtrough
Senior Lecturer in Healthcare Science - Cellular

Sarah Dean
Senior Lecturer in Biomedical Science


A common feature among pre-malignant lesions is the induction of hypoxia through increased cell propagation and reduced access to blood flow. Hypoxia in breast cancer has been associated with poor patient prognosis, resistance to chemotherapy and increased metastasis. Although hypoxia has been correlated with factors associated with the latter stages of cancer progression, it is not well documented how hypoxia influences cells in the earliest stages of transformation. Using the immortalized MCF-10A breast epithelial cell line, we used hypoxic culture conditions to mimic reduced O2 levels found within early pre-malignant lesions and assessed various cellular parameters. In this non-transformed mammary cell line, O2 deprivation led to some changes not immediately associated with cancer progression, such as decreased proliferation, cell cycle arrest and increased apoptosis. In contrast, hypoxia did induce other changes more consistent with an increased metastatic potential. A rise in the CD44+CD24-/low-labeled cell sub-population along with increased colony forming capability indicated an expanded stem cell population. Hypoxia also induced cellular and molecular changes consistent with an epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT). Furthermore, these cells now exhibited increased migratory and invasive abilities. These results underscore the contribution of the hypoxic tumour microenvironment in cancer progression and dissemination.


Daly, C. S., Flemban, A., Shafei, M., Conway, M. E., Qualtrough, D., & Dean, S. J. (2018). Hypoxia modulates the stem cell population and induces EMT in the MCF-10A breast epithelial cell line. Oncology Reports, 39(2), 483-490.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Oct 4, 2017
Online Publication Date Dec 1, 2017
Publication Date Feb 1, 2018
Deposit Date Dec 4, 2017
Publicly Available Date Dec 4, 2017
Journal Oncology Reports
Print ISSN 1021-335X
Electronic ISSN 1791-2431
Publisher Spandidos Publications
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 39
Issue 2
Pages 483-490
Keywords breast cancer, breast, hypoxia, stem cells
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