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Int Rev Cytol. 2005;246:1-29.

Redundancy of biological regulation as the basis of emergence of multidrug resistance.

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  • 1N. N. Blokhin Cancer Center, Moscow 115478, Russia.


Active efflux of xenobiotics is a major mechanism of cell adaptation to environmental stress. The ATP-dependent transmembrane transporter P-glycoprotein (Pgp) confers long-term cell survival in the presence of different toxins, including anticancer drugs (this concept is referred to as multidrug resistance, or MDR). The vital importance of this mechanism for cell survival dictates the reliability and promptness of its acquisition. To fulfill this requirement, the MDR1 gene that encodes Pgp in humans must be readily upregulated in cells that express low to null levels of MDR1 mRNA prior to stress. The MDR1 gene and a stable MDR phenotype can be induced after short-term exposure of cells to a variety of cues. This effect is implemented by activation of MDR1 transcription and mRNA stabilization. The MDR1 message abundance is regulated by mechanisms generally involved in stress response, namely activation of phospholipase C, protein kinase C and mitogen-activated protein kinase cascades, mobilization of intracellular Ca2+, and nuclear factor kappa B activation. Furthermore, the proximal MDR1 promoter sites critical for induction are not unique for the MDR1 gene; they are common regulatory elements in eukaryotic promoters. Moreover, MDR1 induction can result from activation of (an) intermediate gene(s) whose product(s), in turn, directly activate(s) the MDR1 promoter and/or cause(s) mRNA stabilization. Redundancy of signal transduction and transcriptional mechanisms is the basis for the virtually ubiquitous inducibility of the MDR1 gene. Thus, the complex network of MDR1 regulation ensures rapid emergence of pleiotropic resistance in cells.

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