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Oncotarget. 2015 Jan 20;6(2):1143-56.

Lysosomal sequestration of hydrophobic weak base chemotherapeutics triggers lysosomal biogenesis and lysosome-dependent cancer multidrug resistance.

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The Fred Wyszkowski Cancer Research Laboratory, Dept. of Biology, Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, Haifa 32000, Israel.


Multidrug resistance (MDR) is a primary hindrance to curative cancer chemotherapy. In this respect, lysosomes were suggested to play a role in intrinsic MDR by sequestering protonated hydrophobic weak base chemotherapeutics away from their intracellular target sites. Here we show that intrinsic resistance to sunitinib, a hydrophobic weak base tyrosine kinase inhibitor known to accumulate in lysosomes, tightly correlates with the number of lysosomes accumulating high levels of sunitinib in multiple human carcinoma cells. Furthermore, exposure of cancer cells to hydrophobic weak base drugs leads to a marked increase in the number of lysosomes per cell. Non-cytotoxic, nanomolar concentrations, of the hydrophobic weak base chemotherapeutics doxorubicin and mitoxantrone triggered rapid lysosomal biogenesis that was associated with nuclear translocation of TFEB, the dominant transcription factor regulating lysosomal biogenesis. This resulted in increased lysosomal gene expression and lysosomal enzyme activity. Thus, treatment of cancer cells with hydrophobic weak base chemotherapeutics and their consequent sequestration in lysosomes triggers lysosomal biogenesis, thereby further enhancing lysosomal drug entrapment and MDR. The current study provides the first evidence that drug-induced TFEB-associated lysosomal biogenesis is an emerging determinant of MDR and suggests that circumvention of lysosomal drug sequestration is a novel strategy to overcome this chemoresistance.

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