Maintenance of whole-body ascorbate levels and distribution is mediated via sodium-dependent vitamin C transporters (SVCTs). The kidney is one of a few organs that express both SVCT1 and SVCT2. Recent evidence suggests that accumulation of ascorbate may be different in tumour compared to normal tissue, but data on SVCT levels in tumours is sparse.
The role of the two SVCT isoforms in ascorbate uptake in renal cell carcinoma (RCC) was investigated in vitro and in clinical samples. In three human RCC cell lines, we investigated SVCT protein levels and cellular location in response to ascorbate supplementation and withdrawal. In clinical RCC samples (n=114), SVCT patterns of staining and protein levels were analysed and compared to ascorbate levels.
In cell culture, transporter levels and cellular location were not modified by ascorbate availability at any time up to 8h, although basal SVCT2 levels governed maximal ascorbate accumulation. In clinical samples, SVCT1 protein levels in papillary RCC (pRCC) were similar to matched normal renal cortex, but were increased in clear-cell RCC (ccRCC). Native SVCT2 (72 kDa) was significantly decreased in both pRCC and ccRCC tissues compared to cortex (p<0.01), whereas a modified form of SVCT2 (100 kDa) was significantly increased (p<0.001). There was no association between the transporters (SVCT1, native or modified SVCT2) and ascorbate concentrations in either normal or tumour tissues. SVCT1 and SVCT2 displayed diffuse cytoplasmic staining in both pRCC and ccRCC tumour cells, with cortex showing distinct membrane staining for SVCT1.
We observed a re-distribution of ascorbate transporters in tumour tissue compared to normal cortex and a shift from native to modified SVCT2 in cell culture and clinical samples. Data presented here show that SVCT protein levels do not appear to predict intracellular ascorbate accumulation in RCC.

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