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Blood. 1997 Jul 1;90(1):346-53.

Sensitivity of acute leukemia cells to cytarabine is a correlate of cellular es nucleoside transporter site content measured by flow cytometry with SAENTA-fluorescein.

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  • 1Department of Pharmacology, University of Alberta, and Cross Cancer Institute, Edmonton, Canada.


Cytarabine (araC) is converted to araC 5'-triphosphate after entering leukemia cells as a substrate for nucleoside transport processes. This study tested the relationship between araC cytotoxicity, measured in an in vitro tetrazolium dye reduction assay of cell viability, and the cellular abundance of es nucleoside transport elements, assayed by a flow cytometric method that used the es-specific stain, 5-(SAENTA-x8)-fluorescein (5-(Sx8)-F), in cultured leukemia cells and in myeloblasts and lymphoblasts (blasts) from leukemia patients. Cellular es site abundance (B(max) value for 5-(Sx8)-F binding) varied sixfold among nine leukemic myeloblast samples from patients. In cultured OCI/AML-2 myeloblasts and CCRF-CEM T-lymphoblasts, and in fresh leukemic blasts, es sites were fractionally blocked by treatment with graded concentrations of nitrobenzylthioinosine (NBMPR), an inhibitory es site ligand, to simulate the variation in es expression found in leukemic blasts from patients with acute myeloid leukemia. When the cytotoxicity of a single concentration of araC was determined in NBMPR-treated leukemia cells, cell kill correlated closely with the intensity of 5-(Sx8)-F fluorescence (r = .92 to .99), a measure of the cell surface abundance of functional es nucleoside transporter sites. Concentrations of NBMPR that achieved half-maximal reduction (4.3 to 12 nmol/L) of cellular 5-(Sx8)-F fluorescence (measured by flow cytometry) approximated IC50 values (1 to 10 nmol/L) previously found for inhibition by NBMPR of es-mediated nucleoside fluxes in several cell types, supporting the view that 5-(Sx8)-F interacted with the estransporter. The correlation of araC cytotoxicity and the B(max) for 5-(Sx8)-F binding to es sites in cultured leukemia cells and in leukemic blasts from acute leukemia patients (r = .95) suggests that the flow cytometry assay of es capacity may be useful in predicting clinical response to araC.

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