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Biochem Pharmacol. 2011 Jul 1;82(1):24-34. doi: 10.1016/j.bcp.2011.03.024. Epub 2011 Apr 1.

MDM2 antagonist nutlin-3a reverses mitoxantrone resistance by inhibiting breast cancer resistance protein mediated drug transport.

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Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, Memphis, TN 38105, USA.


Breast cancer resistance protein (BCRP; ABCG2), a clinical marker for identifying the side population (SP) cancer stem cell subgroup, affects intestinal absorption, brain penetration, hepatobiliary excretion, and multidrug resistance of many anti-cancer drugs. Nutlin-3a is currently under pre-clinical investigation in a variety of solid tumor and leukemia models as a p53 reactivation agent, and has been recently demonstrated to also have p53 independent actions in cancer cells. In the present study, we first report that nutlin-3a can inhibit the efflux function of BCRP. We observed that although the nutlin-3a IC(50) did not differ between BCRP over-expressing and vector control cells, nutlin-3a treatment significantly potentiated the cells to treatment with the BCRP substrate mitoxantrone. Combination index calculations suggested synergism between nutlin-3a and mitoxantrone in cell lines over-expressing BCRP. Upon further investigation, it was confirmed that nutlin-3a increased the intracellular accumulation of BCRP substrates such as mitoxantrone and Hoechst 33342 in cells expressing functional BCRP without altering the expression level or localization of BCRP. Interestingly, nutlin-3b, considered virtually "inactive" in disrupting the MDM2/p53 interaction, reversed Hoechst 33342 efflux with the same potency as nutlin-3a. Intracellular accumulation and bi-directional transport studies using MDCKII cells suggested that nutlin-3a is not a substrate of BCRP. Additionally, an ATPase assay using Sf9 insect cell membranes over-expressing wild-type BCRP indicated that nutlin-3a inhibits BCRP ATPase activity in a dose-dependent fashion. In conclusion, our studies demonstrate that nutlin-3a inhibits BCRP efflux function, which consequently reverses BCRP-related drug resistance.

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