Emerging links between endosomal pH and cancer

Myungjun Ko, Alfredo Quiñones-Hinojosa, Rajini Rao

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Extracellular acidification is a well-known driver of tumorigenesis that has been extensively studied. In contrast, the role of endosomal pH is novel and relatively unexplored. There is emerging evidence from a growing number of studies showing that the pH of endosomal compartments controls proliferation, migration, stemness, and sensitivity to chemoradiation therapy in a variety of tumors. Endosomes are a crucial hub, mediating cellular communication with the external environment. By finely regulating the sorting and trafficking of vesicular cargo for degradation or recycling, endosomal pH determines the fate of plasma membrane proteins, lipids, and extracellular signals including growth factor receptors and their ligands. Several critical regulators of endosomal pH have been identified, including multiple isoforms of the family of electroneutral Na+/H+ exchangers (NHE) such as NHE6 and NHE9. Recent studies have shed light on molecular mechanisms linking endosomal pH to cancer malignancy. Manipulating endosomal pH by epigenetic reprogramming, small molecules, or nanoparticles may offer promising new options in cancer therapy. In this review, we summarize evidence linking endosomal pH to cancer, with a focus on the role of endosomal Na+/H+ exchangers and how they affect the prognosis of cancer patients, and also suggest how regulation of endosomal pH may be exploited to develop new cancer therapies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)519-534
Number of pages16
JournalCancer and Metastasis Reviews
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1 2020


  • And protons
  • Breast cancer
  • Chemoresistance
  • Glioblastoma
  • NHE6
  • NHE9
  • RACK1
  • Sodium-hydrogen exchanger

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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