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Br J Cancer. 1995 Dec;72(6):1389-96.

Differences in resistance to 5-fluorouracil as a function of cell cycle delay and not apoptosis.

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Department of Surgery, University of Liverpool, UK.


A series of human embryo fibroblasts has previously been shown to display increasing resistance to the antimetabolites methotrexate (MTX) and N-phosphonacetyl-L-aspartate (PALA) with increasing tumorigenicity. This increased resistance was found to be further increased as a result of salvage pathway activity for purine and pyrimidine biosynthesis. A similar pattern of increasing resistance paralleling increasing tumorigenicity has now been shown to occur with 5-fluorouracil (5-FU), which is independent of salvage pathway activity. The KMS normal cell line was found to be more sensitive to 5-FU than either the immortalised KMST or tumorigenic KN-NM cell lines. Immunohistochemical analysis of the three cell lines demonstrated high levels of p53 protein in the KMST and KN-NM cell lines, but undetectable p53 levels in the KMS cell line. From these data it was hypothesised that a difference in p53 function may be causing the difference in the patterns of sensitivity observed in the three cell lines. P53 is now believed to function as a regulator of a G1 to S cell cycle checkpoint and as an inducer of apoptosis following DNA damage to the cell. The differences in sensitivity of the cell lines could not be explained by differences in the levels of apoptosis but could be attributed to differences in cell cycle response. Our evidence suggests that loss of cell cycle control, possibly through loss of p53 function, is an important factor in increasing the drug resistance of fibroblast cell lines.

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