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Br J Cancer. 1989 Sep;60(3):282-7.

Flow cytometric analysis of Hoechst 33342 uptake as an indicator of multi-drug resistance in human lung cancer.

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  • 1Clinical Oncology and Radiotherapeutics Unit, Addenbrooke's Hospital, Cambridge, UK.


Cytotoxic drug resistance developing after chemotherapy is thought to be the main cause of treatment failure in several human tumours, including small cell lung cancer (SCLC). Cell lines showing drug resistance following prolonged exposure to a single agent frequently acquire resistance to several functionally unrelated drugs, the phenomenon of multi-drug resistance (MDR). Classical MDR is thought to arise from changes effecting a reduction in intracellular availability of cytotoxic drugs. We describe a flow cytometry (FCM) technique to monitor the MDR phenotype in drug resistant variants of SCLC and non-SCLC cell lines. The technique is based on a multiparametric analysis of the nuclear binding of a model chemotherapeutic agent, the fluorescent dye Hoechst 33342 (Ho342), which is capable of supra-vital staining of DNA in intact, viable cells. A laboratory derived drug resistant SCLC cell line, H69/LX4, showed a significant (30%) reduction in nuclear binding compared to the parental line H69/P. Exposure to verapamil (VPL) rapidly increased (within 2 min) nuclear binding of Ho342, and the new equilibrium of nuclear staining, attained within 20 min, remained lower than the level achieved in the parental cell line, suggesting some ability of H69/LX4 to limit the effect of the drug efflux blocker. A drug resistant large cell carcinoma line showed only a small reduction (10%) in nuclear binding when compared to the parent line, and this difference was not altered by VPL. A drug resistant adenocarcinoma line showed less than 10% difference in nuclear binding compared with the parental line and neither line was significantly affected by VPL treatment. Our findings suggest that different mechanisms of resistance may occur in lung tumours of different tissue types. This technique may be extended to the rapid and direct examination of biopsy specimens of human solid tumours for evidence of multi-drug resistance.

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