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Blood. 1999 Jan 15;93(2):599-606.

P-glycoprotein expression on normal and abnormally expanded natural killer cells and inhibition of P-glycoprotein function by cyclosporin A and its analogue, PSC833.

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Department of Hematology, Juntendo University School of Medicine, Tokyo, Japan.


P-glycoprotein (P-gp), a transmembrane efflux pump encoded by the MDR1 gene, has been found to be expressed in many normal bone marrow and peripheral blood cells. Among normal leukocytes, CD3(-)CD16(+) or CD3(-)CD56(+) lymphocytes, ie, natural killer (NK) cells, express relatively high levels of P-gp, but little is known about P-gp in abnormally expanded NK cells. In this study, we examined the expression and activity of P-gp on NK cells derived from three normal donors, six patients with indolent NK cell-lineage granular lymphocyte-proliferative disorder (NK-GLPD), three patients with aggressive NK cell tumors (one NK cell leukemia and two nasal NK cell lymphoma), and two NK cell lines. By flow cytometric analysis using the monoclonal antibody (MoAb) MRK16 and rhodamine 123 dye (Rh123), P-gp expression and the efflux of Rh123 were found in all NK samples except one NK cell line. The Rh123 efflux of NK cells was inhibited by cyclosporin A (CsA) and its analogue PSC 833, but the aggressive NK tumor cells were less inhibited than were the other NK cells. The percent inhibition of efflux in the normal NK cells, indolent NK-GLPD cells and aggressive NK cell tumors was 81.8% +/- 0. 9%, 93.4% +/- 3.1% and 36.9% +/- 11.7%, respectively, by 1 micromol/L CsA, and 80.2% +/- 3.6%, 91.7% +/- 2.6% and 32.7% +/- 10. 1%, respectively, by 1 micromol/L PSC833. In reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) analysis, the low inhibitory effect of P-gp modulators in aggressive NK cell tumors did not correlate to the expression level of MDR1 gene, multidrug resistance-associated protein gene, or human canalicular multispecific organic anion transporter gene. This phenomenon could be related to the presence of other transporters or to unknown cellular or membrane changes. Some patients with NK cell tumors have been reported to show a highly aggressive clinical course and to be refractory to chemotherapy, and this could be related to the expression of P-gp on NK cells. Our results suggest that, although the inhibitors for P-gp have been used in combination with chemotherapy in some hematologic tumors, these inhibitors may be less effective against aggressive NK cell tumors.

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