Lactate generated from pyruvate fuels production of intracellular NAD(+) as an end result of the glycolytic process in tumors. Elevated lactate concentration represents a good indicator of the metabolic adaptation of tumors and is actually correlated to clinical outcome in a variety of human cancers. In this study, we investigated whether lactate could directly modulate the endothelial phenotype and thereby tumor vascular morphogenesis and perfusion. We found that lactate could enter endothelial cells through the monocarboxylate transporter MCT-1, trigger the phosphorylation/degradation of IκBα, and then stimulate an autocrine NF-κB/IL-8 (CXCL8) pathway driving cell migration and tube formation. These effects were prevented by 2-oxoglutarate and reactive oxygen species (ROS) inhibitors, pointing to a role for prolyl-hydroxylase and ROS in the integration of lactate signaling in endothelial cells. PHD2 silencing in endothelial cells recapitulated the proangiogenic effects of lactate, whereas a blocking IL-8 antibody or IL-8-targeting siRNA prevented them. Finally, we documented in mouse xenograft models of human colorectal and breast cancer that lactate release from tumor cells through the MCT4 (and not MCT1) transporter is sufficient to stimulate IL-8-dependent angiogenesis and tumor growth. In conclusion, our findings establish a signaling role for lactate in endothelial cells and they identify the lactate/NF-κB/IL-8 pathway as an important link between tumor metabolism and angiogenesis.
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