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J Nanobiotechnology. 2019 Jan 22;17(1):9. doi: 10.1186/s12951-019-0448-4.

Endoplasmic reticulum stress: major player in size-dependent inhibition of P-glycoprotein by silver nanoparticles in multidrug-resistant breast cancer cells.

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Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Faculty of Science and Informatics, University of Szeged, Közép fasor 52, Szeged, 6726, Hungary.
Department of Applied and Environmental Chemistry, University of Szeged, Rerrich B. tér 1, Szeged, 6720, Hungary.
Department of Pathology, University of Szeged, Állomás u. 2, Szeged, 6725, Hungary.
Department of Pharmacology and Pharmacotherapy, University of Szeged, Dóm tér 12, Szeged, 6720, Hungary.
Institute of Biochemistry, Biological Research Center of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Temesvári krt. 62, Szeged, 6726, Hungary.
MTA-SZTE Reaction Kinetics and Surface Chemistry Research Group, Rerrich B. tér 1, Szeged, 6720, Hungary.
Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Faculty of Science and Informatics, University of Szeged, Közép fasor 52, Szeged, 6726, Hungary.



Development of multidrug resistance (MDR) is a major burden of successful chemotherapy, therefore, novel approaches to defeat MDR are imperative. Although the remarkable anti-cancer propensity of silver nanoparticles (AgNP) has been demonstrated and their potential application in MDR cancer has been proposed, the nanoparticle size-dependent cellular events directing P-glycoprotein (Pgp) expression and activity in MDR cancer have never been addressed. Hence, in the present study we examined AgNP size-dependent cellular features in multidrug resistant breast cancer cells.


In this study we report that 75 nm AgNPs inhibited significantly Pgp efflux activity in drug-resistant breast cancer cells and potentiated the apoptotic effect of doxorubicin, which features were not observed upon 5 nm AgNP treatment. Although both sized AgNPs induced significant ROS production and mitochondrial damage, 5 nm AgNPs were more potent than 75 nm AgNPs in this respect, therefore, these effects can not to be accounted for the reduced transport activity of ATP-driven pumps observed after 75 nm AgNP treatments. Instead we found that 75 nm AgNPs depleted endoplasmic reticulum (ER) calcium stores, caused notable ER stress and decreased plasma membrane positioning of Pgp.


Our study suggests that AgNPs are potent inhibitors of Pgp function and are promising agents for sensitizing multidrug resistant breast cancers to anticancer drugs. This potency is determined by their size, since 75 nm AgNPs are more efficient than smaller counterparts. This is a highly relevant finding as it renders AgNPs attractive candidates in rational design of therapeutically useful agents for tumor targeting. In the present study we provide evidence that exploitation of ER stress can be a propitious target in defeating multidrug resistance in cancers.


ER stress; Multidrug resistance; P-glycoprotein; Silver nanoparticles

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