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Cancer Res. 2005 May 1;65(9):3861-7.

Glucosylceramide synthase blockade down-regulates P-glycoprotein and resensitizes multidrug-resistant breast cancer cells to anticancer drugs.

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  • 1John Wayne Cancer Institute at Saint John's Health Center, Santa Monica, California 90404, USA.


Overexpression of glucosylceramide synthase (GCS), a pivotal enzyme in glycolipid biosynthesis, contributes to cancer cell resistance to chemotherapy. We previously showed that transfection of doxorubicin-resistant MCF-7-AdrR cells with GCS antisense restored cell sensitivity to doxorubicin and greatly enhanced sensitivity to vinblastine and paclitaxel. In that study, doxorubicin promoted generation of ceramide in MCF-7-AdrR/GCS antisense cells; the present study implicates factors in addition to ceramide that augment sensitivity to chemotherapy. Although GCS antisense cells showed enhanced ceramide formation compared with MCF-7-AdrR when challenged with paclitaxel, GCS antisense cells also showed a 10-fold increase in levels of intracellular drug (paclitaxel and vinblastine). In addition, transfected cells had dramatically decreased expression (80%) of P-glycoprotein and a 4-fold decrease in the level of cellular gangliosides. Chemical inhibition of GCS produced the same effects as antisense transfection: exposure of MCF-7-AdrR cells to the GCS inhibitor 1-phenyl-2-palmitoylamino-3-morpholino-1-propanol (PPMP, 5.0 micromol/L, 4 days) decreased ganglioside levels, restored sensitivity to vinblastine, enhanced vinblastine uptake 3-fold, and diminished expression of MDR1 by 58%, compared with untreated controls. A similar effect was shown in vinblastin-resistant KB-V0.01 cells; after 7 days with PPMP (10 micromol/L), MDR1 expression fell by 84% and P-glycoprotein protein levels decreased by 50%. MCF-7-AdrR cells treated with small interfering RNAs to specifically block GCS also showed a dramatic decrease in MDR1 expression. This work shows that limiting GCS activity down-regulates the expression of MDR1, a phenomenon that may drive the chemosensitization associated with blocking ceramide metabolism. The data suggest that lipids play a role in the expression of multidrug resistance.

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