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Leuk Res. 2008 Mar;32(3):475-80. Epub 2007 Aug 20.

Overexpression of glucosylceramide synthase in associated with multidrug resistance of leukemia cells.

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  • 1Central Laboratory, No. 1 Hospital of Wuxi, Wuxi, Jiangsu 214002, China.


Ceramide, as a second messenger, initiates one of the major signal transduction pathways in tumor apoptosis. Glucosylceramide synthase (GCS) catalyzes glycosylation of ceramide and produces glucosylceramide. Through GCS, ceramide glycosylation allows cellular escape from ceramide-induced programmed cell death. Here we investigated the expression of GCS in human leukemia cells and an association between GCS and multidrug resistance of leukemia cells. Using RT-PCR technique the level of GCS gene was detected in 65 clinical multidrug resistance/non-resistance cases with leukemia, and in K562 and K562/A02 cell lines. AlamarBlue Assay was applied to confirm the multidrug resistant of K562/A02 cells. PPMP, which is a chemical inhibitor for GCS, was used to determine the relationship between GCS and drug-resistance in K562/A02 cells. In addition, multidrug resistance gene (mdr1), Bcl-2 and Bax mRNA was also analyzed by RT-PCR. The expression of GCS and mdr1 mRNA in clinic multidrug resistance samples exhibited significantly increased compared with clinic drug sensitive group (P<0.05). There was the positive correlation both the expression of GCS and mdr1 genes in leukemia samples (P<0.01, gamma=0.7). AlamarBlue Assay showed that the K562/A02 cell line was 115-fold more resistant to adriamycin and 36-fold more resistant to vincristine compared with drug-sensitive K562 cell line. There also was significant expression difference of GCS and mdr1 genes between K562 and K562/A02 cells. Bcl-2 gene exhibited higher expressions whatever in clinic drug-resistance samples or K562/A02 cells, whereas the expressions of Bax gene were higher in drug-sensitive samples and K562 cells. PPMP increased sensitivity to adriamycin toxicity by inhibiting GCS in K562/A02 cells. Therefore, it is suggested that a high level of GCS in leukemia is possible contributed to multidrug resistance of leukemia cells. Abnormally expressions of the genes in associated with cell apoptosis might be one of the main molecular pathology mechanisms of multidrug resistance caused by GCS gene.

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