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J Cell Biochem. 2012 Apr;113(4):1416-25. doi: 10.1002/jcb.24016.

Acquisition of MDR phenotype by leukemic cells is associated with increased caspase-3 activity and a collateral sensitivity to cold stress.

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  • 1Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology B and Immunology, University of Murcia, Murcia, Spain.


The acquisition of a multidrug-resistant (MDR) phenotype by tumor cells that renders them unsusceptible to anti-neoplasic agents is one of the main causes of chemotherapy failure in human malignancies. The increased expression of P-glycoprotein (MDR1, P-gp, ABCB1) in tumor cells contributes to drug resistance by extruding chemotherapeutic agents or by regulating programmed cell death. In a study of MDR cell survival under cold stress conditions, it was found that resistant leukemic cells with P-gp over-expression, but not their sensitive counterparts, are hypersensitive to cold-induced cell death when exposed to temperatures below 4 °C. The transfection of parental cells with a P-gp-expressing plasmid makes these cells sensitive to cold stress, demonstrating an association between P-gp expression and cell death at low temperatures. Furthermore, we observed increased basal expression and activity of effector caspase-3 at physiological temperature (37 °C) in MDR cells compared with their parental cell line. Treatment with a caspase-3 inhibitor partially rescues MDR leukemic cells from cold-induced apoptosis, which suggests that the cell death mechanism may require caspase-3 activity. Taken together, these findings demonstrate that P-gp expression plays a role in MDR cell survival, and is accompanied by a collateral sensitivity to death induced by cold stress. These findings may assist in the design of specific therapeutic strategies to complement current chemotherapy treatment against cancer.

© 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

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