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Oncol Res. 1997;9(6-7):295-302.

Importance of glutathione and associated enzymes in drug response.

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Department of Pharmacology, Fox Chase Cancer Center, Philadelphia, PA 19111, USA.


Maintenance of cellular homeostasis is a critical survival trait in tumors when exposed to anticancer drugs. Because conjugation and elimination of drugs and their metabolites is dependent upon sequential and coordinated pathways, acquired drug resistance through a gradual adaptive response would rarely be expected to be the consequence of changes in the expression of one gene product. We have used a number of drug-resistant human cell lines to characterize those genes that are implicated in maintaining a resistant phenotype. Human HT29 colon cancer cells chronically exposed to ethacrynic acid (EA) [a glutathione (GSH) and glutathione S-transferase (GST) modulator] have acquired resistance to the drug. Commensurate with resistance, EA is more effectively conjugated to GSH and effluxed from the resistant cells. Using directed and random (differential display) approaches, a number of detoxification and/or protective gene products have been shown to be expressed at elevated levels. These include: gamma-glutamyl cysteine synthetase (gamma-GCS, the rate-limiting enzyme in GSH biosynthesis); GST pi (the enzyme catalyzing the conjugation reaction); multidrug resistance associated protein (MRP) (the membrane pump responsible for effluxing the conjugate from the cell interior). In addition, other gene products not directly linked with EA metabolism were induced, including dihydrodiol dehydrogenase (an alpha-ketoreductase) (30-fold), DT-diaphorase (threefold), and a transcriptional regulator SSP 3521 (threefold). HL60 cells resistant to a GSH paralog Ter199 also show increased expression of some of these gene products. Furthermore, an adriamycin-resistant human HL60 cell line also shows overexpression of GST pi, gamma-GCS, and MRP, but in addition has approximately 20-fold more DNA-dependent protein kinase catalytic subunit (DNA-PKcs). This enzyme is an early stress response gene that can phosphorylate and activate downstream transcription factors. Such overexpression could impact on the transcriptional control of the other detoxification gene products. Both adriamycin and a typical drug-GSH conjugate (APA-SG) are inhibitors of DNA-PK. Because cellular levels of these conjugates would presumably be a good indicator of stress, it would seem reasonable to speculate that DNA-PK may act as a receiver and transmitter of signals that are crucial to the drug-resistant phenotype. Additionally, this enzyme may prove to be a potentially important target for drug design based upon the inhibitory activity of GSH conjugates.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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