Chromatin accessibility changes are associated with enhanced growth and liver metastasis capacity of acid-adapted colorectal cancer cells

The acidic extracellular microenvironment, namely acidosis, is a biochemical hallmark of solid tumors. However, the tumorigenicity, metastatic potential, gene expression profile and chromatin accessibility of acidosis-adapted colorectal cancer cells remain unknown. The colorectal cancer cell SW620 was cultured in acidic medium (pH 6.5) for more than 3 months to be acidosis-adapted (SW620-AA). In comparison to parental cells, SW620-AA cells exhibit enhanced tumorigenicity and liver metastatic potential in vivo. Following mRNA and lncRNA expression profiling, we validated that OLMF1, NFIB, SMAD9, DGKB are upregulated, while SESN2, MAP1B, UTRN, PCDH19, IL18, LMO2, CNKSR3, GXYLT2 are downregulated in SW620-AA cells. The differentially expressed mRNAs were significantly enriched in DNA remodeling-associated pathways including HDACs deacetylate histones, SIRT1 pathway, DNA methylation, DNA bending complex, and RNA polymerase 1 chain elongation. Finally, chromatin accessibility evaluation by ATAC-sequencing revealed that the differentially opened peaks were enriched in pathways such as small cell lung cancer, pathways in cancer, ErbB signaling, endometrial cancer, and chronic myeloid leukemia, which were mainly distributed in intergenic regions and introns. These results suggest that the chromatin accessibility changes are correlated with enhanced growth and liver metastasis capacity of acid-adapted colorectal cancer cells.