The impact of macrophages on endothelial cells is potentiated by cycling hypoxia: Enhanced tumor inflammation and metastasis

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Cycling hypoxia (cyH), neo-angiogenesis, and tumor-associated macrophages are key features of the tumor microenvironment. In this study, we demonstrate that cyH potentiates the induction by unpolarized and M1-like macrophages of endothelial inflammatory phenotype and adhesiveness for monocytes and cancer cells. This process triggers a positive feedback loop sustaining tumor inflammation. This work opens the door for innovative therapeutic strategies to treat tumor inflammation and metastasis. In cancers, the interaction between macrophages and endothelial cells (ECs) regulates tumor inflammation and metastasis. These cells are both affected by cycling hypoxia (cyH), also called intermittent hypoxia, a feature of the tumor microenvironment. cyH is also known to favor tumor inflammation and metastasis. Nonetheless, the potential impact of cyH on the dialog between macrophages and ECs is still unknown. In this work, the effects of unpolarized, M1-like, and M2-like macrophages exposed to normoxia, chronic hypoxia (chH), and cyH on endothelial adhesion molecule expression, pro-inflammatory gene expression, and EC adhesiveness for monocytes and cancer cells were investigated. cyH increased the ability of unpolarized and M1-like macrophages to induce EC inflammation and to increase the expression of the EC endothelial adhesion molecule ICAM1, respectively. Unpolarized, M1-like, and M2-like macrophages were all able to promote EC adhesive properties toward cancer cells. Furthermore, the ability of macrophages (mostly M1-like) to shift EC phenotype toward one allowing cancer cell and monocyte adhesion onto ECs was potentiated by cyH. These effects were specific to cyH because they were not observed with chH. Together, these results show that cyH amplifies the effects of macrophages on ECs, which may promote tumor inflammation and metastasis.

Original languageEnglish
Article number961753
Pages (from-to)961753
Number of pages14
JournalFrontiers in Oncology
Publication statusPublished - 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • cancer
  • cancer cells
  • cycling hypoxia
  • endothelial cells
  • macrophages


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