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Blood. 2000 May 1;95(9):2897-904.

P-glycoprotein plays a drug-efflux-independent role in augmenting cell survival in acute myeloblastic leukemia and is associated with modulation of a sphingomyelin-ceramide apoptotic pathway.

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  • 1Division of Haematology, School of Clinical and Laboratory Sciences, University of Nottingham, and the Nottingham City Hospital, Nottingham, UK. m.pallis@nottingham.ac.uk


P-glycoprotein (pgp), which is the product of the MDR1 (multidrug resistance-1) gene, has an established role as a mediator of cytotoxic drug resistance in acute myeloid leukemia (AML). To study the role of pgp in mediating apoptosis resistance in AML cells deprived of serum and growth factors, apoptosis was quantified by flow cytometry using uptake of the dye 7-amino-actinomycin D (7-AAD) alongside low forward scatter. In pgp+ve primary AML samples, there was a significant increase in apoptosis in the presence of the pgp-specific antibody UIC2 (mean increase: 58%; range: 11%-95%; P <. 05). Likewise, apoptosis in growth factor-deprived TF1 cells cultured for 30 hours increased 2.5-fold in the presence of 25 microg/mL UIC2. The pgp reversal agent PSC-833 (1 micromol/L) augmented in vitro apoptosis by a median of 52% in pgp+ve patient samples and to a comparable degree in 6 pgp-ve samples. To determine whether the sphingomyelin-ceramide (SM-ceramide) pathway of apoptosis occurs in AML blasts in response to cytotoxic drugs, cells were incubated with daunorubicin at the patient-specific IC(30) (the concentration of daunorubicin that caused apoptotic cell death in 30% of cells) in the presence of the ceramide synthase inhibitor fumonisin B1, which inhibited apoptosis by 18%-81% (median: 40%). Exogenous SM failed to augment apoptosis induced by growth factor withdrawal in pgp+ve TF1 cells and was significantly more effective at augmenting apoptosis in pgp-ve patient blasts (median increase in cell death: 33%; range: 19%-88%) than in pgp+ve samples (median: 7%; range: 0%-27%; P =.028). Cellular accumulation of exogenous SM was associated with apoptosis and also occurred in nonapoptotic patient cells treated with PSC-833. However, this effect was not seen following treatment with the UIC2 antibody. These results indicate that pgp is able to exert a protective effect on AML cell viability and that this is associated with a reduced effect of exogenous SM on apoptosis. The pgp reversal agent PSC-833 acts, at least in part, by a pgp independent mechanism to alter SM distribution and to augment apoptosis induced in AML cells by serum and growth factor withdrawal. (Blood. 2000;95:2897-2904)

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