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Leuk Res. 2009 May;33(5):710-6. doi: 10.1016/j.leukres.2008.09.024. Epub 2008 Nov 1.

Imatinib resistance in multidrug-resistant K562 human leukemic cells.

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Laboratorio de Neurofisiología, Instituto de Investigaciones Médicas Alfredo Lanari, Universidad de Buenos Aires, Conicet, Argentina.


The multidrug resistance phenotype (MDR) is one of the major causes of failure in cancer chemotherapy and it is associated with the over-expression of P-glycoprotein (P-gp or MDR1) in tumor cell membranes. A constitutive NF-kappaB activity has been observed in several haematological malignancies and this is associated with its anti-apoptotic role. In the present work, the relationship between NF-kappaB and MDR phenotype was evaluated in wild type K562 human leukemic cells (K562-WT) and in its vincristine-resistant counterpart, K562-Vinc cells. These data showed that K562-Vinc cells, which express an active P-gp, exhibited MDR phenotype. The resistant indexes (IC(50)(K562-Vinc)/IC(50)(K562-WT)) for structurally unrelated drugs like imatinib, doxorubicin and colchicine were 8.0+/-0.3, 2.8+/-0.4 and 44.8+/-8.8, respectively. The imatinib resistance was reversed by P-gp blockade suggesting the involvement of P-gp in imatinib transport. We observed that NF-kappaB was constitutively activated in both cell lines but in a lesser extent in K562-Vinc. The inhibition of NF-kappaB with BAY 11-7082 increased the cytotoxicity of imatinib in K562-Vinc cells but not in K562-WT. Further, the co-administration of imatinib and BAY 11-7082 sensitized multidrug-resistant K562 cells to cell death as detected by increased percentage of annexin V positive cells. The induced cell death in K562-Vinc cells was associated with activation of caspases 9 and 3. Finally, we provide data showing that BAY 11-7082 down-regulates the expression of P-gp suggesting that the activity of NF-kappaB could be functionally associated to this protein in K562 cells. Our results indicate that the vincristine-resistant K562 cells which developed MDR phenotype, exhibited resistance to imatinib associated with a functional P-gp over-expression. This resistance could be partially overcome by the inhibition of NF-kappaB pathway.

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