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Mol Cell Biol. 1989 Oct;9(10):4337-44.

Expression of a drug resistance gene in human neuroblastoma cell lines: modulation by retinoic acid-induced differentiation.

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Division of Cancer Treatment, National Cancer Institute, Bethesda, Maryland 20892.


Expression of a multidrug resistance gene (mdr1) and its protein product, P-glycoprotein (Pgp), has been correlated with the onset of multidrug resistance in vitro in human cell lines selected for resistance to chemotherapeutic agents derived from natural products. Expression of this gene has also been observed in normal tissues and human tumors, including neuroblastoma. We therefore examined total RNA prepared from human neuroblastoma cell lines before and after differentiation with retinoic acid or sodium butyrate. An increase in the level of mdr1 mRNA was observed after retinoic acid treatment of four neuroblastoma cell lines, including the SK-N-SH cell line. Western blot (immunoblot) analysis demonstrated concomitant increases in Pgp. However, studies of 3H-vinblastine uptake failed to show a concomitant Pgp-mediated decrease in cytotoxic drug accumulation. To provide evidence that Pgp was localized on the cell surface, an immunotoxin conjugate directed against Pgp was added to cells before and after treatment with retinoic acid. Incorporation of [3H]leucine was decreased by the immunotoxin in the retinoic acid-treated cells compared with the undifferentiated cells. These results demonstrate that whereas expression of the mdr1 gene can be modulated by differentiating agents, increased levels of expression are not necessarily associated with increased cytotoxic drug accumulation.

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