Impact of the hypoxia phenotype on the uptake and efflux of nanoparticles by human breast cancer cells

Brownlee, William J. and Seib, F. Philipp (2018) Impact of the hypoxia phenotype on the uptake and efflux of nanoparticles by human breast cancer cells. Scientific Reports, 8. 12318. ISSN 2045-2322 (

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Breast cancer cells adapt to the hypoxic tumoral environment by undergoing changes in metabolism, cell signalling, endo-lysosomal receptor uptake and recycling. The resulting hypoxic cell phenotype has the potential to undermine the therapeutic efficacy of nanomedicines designed for endocytic uptake and specific intracellular trafficking. The aim of this study was to examine the impact of hypoxia and simulated reperfusion on the in vitro uptake and release of nanomedicines by MDA-MB-231 human breast cancer cells. Cells were exposed to a hypoxic preconditioning treatment in 1% oxygen for 6 and 24 hours to induce temporal changes in the hypoxic circuit (e.g. HIF-1α expression). The preconditioned cells were then dosed with nanoparticles for 45 or 180 minutes emulating nanomedicine access following tumor reperfusion. Pericellular oxygen monitoring indicated oxygen tension declined exponentially to 2.3% within 30 minutes and 1.3% within 60 minutes. Hypoxic preconditioning significantly increased nanoparticle retention by up to 10% when compared to normoxic cultures, with the greatest relative difference between normoxic and hypoxic cultures occurring with a 45 minute dosing interval. Exocytosis studies indicated that the preconditioned cells had a significantly increased nanoparticle efflux (up to 9%) when compared to normoxic cells. Overall, we were able to show that hypoxic preconditioning regulates both the endocytosis and exocytosis of nanomedicines in human breast cancer cells.


Brownlee, William J. ORCID logoORCID: and Seib, F. Philipp ORCID logoORCID:;