Journal of cellular and molecular medicine

Cyclooxygenase-2/carbonic anhydrase-IX up-regulation promotes invasive potential and hypoxia survival in colorectal cancer cells.

PMID 19017360


Inflammation promotes colorectal carcinogenesis. Tumour growth often generates a hypoxic environment in the inner tumour mass. We here report that, in colon cancer cells, the expression of the pro-inflammatory enzyme cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) associates with that of the hypoxia response gene carbonic anhydrase-IX (CA-IX). The COX-2 knockdown, achieved by the stable infection of a COX-2 specific short harpin RNA interference (shCOX-2), down-regulates CA-IX gene expression. In colorectal cancer (CRC) cells, PGE(2), the main COX-2 gene products, promotes CA-IX gene expression by ERK1/2 activation. In normoxic environment, shCOX-2 infected/CA-IX siRNA transfected CRC cells show a reduced level of active metalloproteinase-2 (MMP-2) that associates with a decreased extracellular matrix invasion capacity. In presence of hypoxia, COX-2 gene expression and PGE(2) production increase. The knockdown of COX-2/CA-IX blunts the survival capability of CRC cells in hypoxia. At a high cell density, a culture condition that creates a mild pericellular hypoxic environment, the expression of COX-2/CA-IX genes is increased and triggers the invasive potential of colon cancer cells. In human colon cancer tissues, COX-2/CA-IX protein expression levels, assessed by Western blot and immunohistochemistry, correlate each other and increase with tumour stage. In conclusion, these data indicate that COX-2/CA-IX interplay promotes the aggressive behaviour of CRC cells.