Altered multidrug resistance phenotype caused by anthracycline analogues and cytosine arabinoside in myeloid leukemia

Xiu F. Hu, Alison Slater, Phillip Kantharidis, Danny Rischin, Surender Juneja, Ralph Rossi, Grace Lee, John D. Parkin, John R. Zalcberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

60 Citations (Scopus)


The expression of P-glycoprotein (Pgp) is often increased in acute myeloid leukemia (AML). However, little is known of the regulation of Pgp expression by cytotoxics in AML. We examined whether Pgp expression and function in leukemic blasts was altered after a short exposure to cytotoxics. Blasts were isolated from 19 patients with AML (15 patients) or chronic myeloid leukemia in biastic transformation (BT-CML, 4 patients). Pgp expression and function were analyzed by flow cytometric analysis of MRK 16 binding and Rhodamine 123 retention, respectively. At equitoxic concentrations, ex vivo exposure for 16 hours to the anthracyclines epirubicin (EPI), daunomycin (DAU), idarubicin (IDA), or MX2 or the nucleoside analogue cytosine arabinoside (AraC) differentially upregulated MDR1/Pgp expression in Pgp-negative and Pgp-positive blast cells. In Pgp- negative blasts, all four anthracyclines and AraC significantly increased Pgp expression (P = .01) and Pgp function (P = .03). In contrast, MX2, DAU, and AraC were the most potent in inducing Pgp expression and function in Pgp positive blasts (P < .05). A good correlation between increased Pgp expression and function was observed in Pgp-negative (r = .90, P = .0001) and Pgp-positive blasts (r = .77, P = .0002). This increase in Pgp expression and function was inhibited by the addition of 1 μmol/L PSC 833 to blast cells at the time of their exposure to these cytotoxics. In 1 patient with AML, an increase in Pgp levels was observed in vivo at 4 and 16 hours after the administration of standard chemotherapy with DAU/AraC. Upregulation of Pgp expression was also demonstrated ex vivo in blasts harvested from this patient before the commencement of treatment. In 3 other cases (1 patient with AML and 2 with BT-CML) in which blasts were Pgp negative at the time of initial clinical presentation, serial samples at 1 to 5 months after chemotherapy showed the presence of Pgp-positive blasts. All 3 patients had refractory disease. Interestingly, in all 3 cases, upregulation of Pgp by cytotoxics was demonstrated ex vivo in blasts harvested at the time of presentation. These data suggest that upregulation of the MDR1 gene may represent a normal response of leukemic cells to cytotoxic stress and may contribute to clinical drug resistance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4086-4095
Number of pages10
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jun 1999

Cite this