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Cancer Res. 2001 Aug 15;61(16):6185-93.

Loss of p53 function confers high-level multidrug resistance in neuroblastoma cell lines.

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Division of Hematology-Oncology, Children's Hospital Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California 90027, USA.


Neuroblastomas can acquire a sustained high-level drug resistance during chemotherapy and especially myeloablative chemoradiotherapy. p53 mutations are rare in primary neuroblastomas, but a loss of p53 function could play a role in multidrug resistance. We determined p53 function by measuring induction of p21 and/or MDM2 proteins in response to melphalan (L-PAM) in seven L-PAM-sensitive and 11 L-PAM-resistant neuroblastoma cell lines. p53 was functional in seven/seven drug-sensitive but in only 4/11 drug-resistant cell lines (P = 0.01). In four of the seven cell lines lacking p53 function, mutations of p53 were detected by the microarray GeneChip p53 Assay and automated sequencing, whereas six cell lines with functional p53 had no evidence of p53 mutations. All of the cell lines with wild-type (wt) p53 showed a strong transactivation of the p53-HBS/CAT reporter gene, whereas the four cell lines with mutant p53 failed to transactivate p53 HBS/CAT. Overexpression of MDM2 protein (relative to p53 functional lines) was seen in two p53-nonfunctional cell lines with wt p53; one showed genomic amplification of MDM2. Nonfunctional and mutated p53 was detected in a resistant cell line, whereas a sensitive cell line derived from the same patient before treatment had functional and wt p53. Loss of p53 function was selectively achieved by transduction of human papillomavirus 16 E6 (which degrades p53) into two drug-sensitive neuroblastoma cell lines with intact p53, causing high-level drug resistance to L-PAM, carboplatin, and etoposide. These data obtained with neuroblastoma cell lines suggest that the high-level drug resistance observed in some recurrent neuroblastomas is attributable to p53 mutations and/or a loss of p53 function acquired during chemotherapy. If confirmed in patient tumor samples, these data support development of p53-independent therapies for consolidation and/or salvage of recurrent neuroblastomas.

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