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Antioxid Redox Signal. 2009 Jan;11(1):99-133. doi: 10.1089/ars.2008.2095.

Redox regulation of multidrug resistance in cancer chemotherapy: molecular mechanisms and therapeutic opportunities.

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  • 1Department of Molecular Pathology (Unit 951), The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas 77030, USA.


The development of multidrug resistance to cancer chemotherapy is a major obstacle to the effective treatment of human malignancies. It has been established that membrane proteins, notably multidrug resistance (MDR), multidrug resistance protein (MRP), and breast cancer resistance protein (BCRP) of the ATP binding cassette (ABC) transporter family encoding efflux pumps, play important roles in the development of multidrug resistance. Overexpression of these transporters has been observed frequently in many types of human malignancies and correlated with poor responses to chemotherapeutic agents. Evidence has accumulated showing that redox signals are activated in response to drug treatments that affect the expression and activity of these transporters by multiple mechanisms, including (a) conformational changes in the transporters, (b) regulation of the biosynthesis cofactors required for the transporter's function, (c) regulation of the expression of transporters at transcriptional, posttranscriptional, and epigenetic levels, and (d) amplification of the copy number of genes encoding these transporters. This review describes various specific factors and their relevant signaling pathways that are involved in the regulation. Finally, the roles of redox signaling in the maintenance and evolution of cancer stem cells and their implications in the development of intrinsic and acquired multidrug resistance in cancer chemotherapy are discussed.

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