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Blood. 2000 Feb 1;95(3):1014-22.

Arsenic induces apoptosis of multidrug-resistant human myeloid leukemia cells that express Bcr-Abl or overexpress MDR, MRP, Bcl-2, or Bcl-x(L).

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  • 1Division of Clinical and Translational Research, Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, University of Miami School of Medicine, Miami, FL 33136, USA.


We investigated the in vitro growth inhibitory and apoptotic effects of clinically achievable concentrations of As(2)O(3) (0.5 to 2.0 micromol/L) against human myeloid leukemia cells known to be resistant to a number of apoptotic stimuli. These included chronic myelocytic leukemia (CML) blast crisis K562 and HL-60/Bcr-Abl cells, which contain p210 and p185 Bcr-Abl, respectively, and HL-60 cell types that overexpress Bcl-2 (HL-60/Bcl-2), Bcl-x(L) (HL-60/Bcl-x(L)), MDR (HL-60/VCR), or MRP (HL-60/AR) protein. The growth-inhibitory IC(50) values for As(2)O(3) treatment for 7 days against all these cell types ranged from 0.8 to 1.5 micromol/L. Exposure to 2 micromol/L As(2)O(3) for 7 days induced apoptosis of all cell types, including HL-60/Bcr-Abl and K562 cells. This was associated with the cytosolic accumulation of cyt c and preapoptotic mitochondrial events, such as the loss of inner membrane potential (DeltaPsim) and the increase in reactive oxygen species (ROS). Treatment with As(2)O(3) (2 micromol/L) generated the activities of caspases, which produced the cleavage of the BH3 domain containing proapoptotic Bid protein and poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase. Significantly, As(2)O(3)-induced apoptosis of HL-60/Bcr-Abl and K562 cells was associated with a decline in Bcr-Abl protein levels, without any significant alterations in the levels of Bcl-x(L), Bax, Apaf-1, Fas, and FasL. Although As(2)O(3 )treatment caused a marked increase in the expression of the myeloid differentiation marker CD11b, it did not affect Hb levels in HL-60/Bcr-Abl, K562, or HL-60/neo cells. However, in these cells, As(2)O(3 )potently induced hyper-acetylation of the histones H3 and H4. These findings characterize As(2)O(3) as a growth inhibiting and apoptosis-inducing agent against a variety of myeloid leukemia cells resistant to multiple apoptotic stimuli.

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