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Cancer Res. 2007 May 15;67(10):4915-23.

P-glycoprotein mediates celecoxib-induced apoptosis in multiple drug-resistant cell lines.

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Department of Internal Medicine, Postgraduate School in Oncology, Interuniversity Center for Liver Pathophysiology, University of Florence, Azienda Ospedaliero-Universitaria Careggi and Istituto Toscano Tumori, Florence, Italy.


In several neoplastic diseases, including hepatocellular carcinoma, the expression of P-glycoprotein and cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) are often increased and involved in drug resistance and poor prognosis. P-glycoprotein, in addition to drug resistance, blocks cytochrome c release, preventing apoptosis in tumor cells. Because COX-2 induces P-glycoprotein expression, we evaluated the effect of celecoxib, a specific inhibitor of COX-2 activity, on P-glycoprotein-mediated resistance to apoptosis in cell lines expressing multidrug resistant (MDR) phenotype. Experiments were done using MDR-positive and parental cell lines at basal conditions and after exposure to 10 or 50 micromol/L celecoxib. We found that 10 micromol/L celecoxib reduced P-glycoprotein, Bcl-x(L), and Bcl-2 expression, and induced translocation of Bax from cytosol to mitochondria and cytochrome c release into cytosol in MDR-positive hepatocellular carcinoma cells. This causes the activation of caspase-3 and increases the number of cells going into apoptosis. No effect was shown on parental drug-sensitive or on MDR-positive hepatocellular carcinoma cells after transfection with MDR1 small interfering RNA. Interestingly, although inhibiting COX-2 activity, 50 micromol/L celecoxib weakly increased the expression of COX-2 and P-glycoprotein and did not alter Bcl-x(L) and Bcl-2 expression. In conclusion, these results show that relatively low concentrations of celecoxib induce cell apoptosis in MDR cell lines. This effect is mediated by P-glycoprotein and suggests that the efficacy of celecoxib in the treatment of different types of cancer may depend on celecoxib concentration and P-glycoprotein expression.

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