Background: Pancreatic cancer is characterized by high resistance to chemotherapy. Such chemoresistance can be mediated by multidrug resistance proteins (MRPs), breast cancer resistance protein (BCRP), and MDR1 P-glycoprotein. However, the contribution of individual MRP isoforms to chemoresistance in pancreatic carcinoma is unclear. We studied ATP-binding cassette (ABC) transporter expression in human pancreatic carcinoma cell lines as compared to primary pancreatic duct cells, and analyzed the MRP expression profile in 5-fluorouracil-resistant cells. Methods: Transporter expression was analyzed by quantitative and qualitative RT-PCR, by immunoblot, and chemoresistance by cytotoxicity assay. Results: Primary pancreatic duct cells expressed MRP1, MRP3, MRP4, and MRP5, but not MRP2 mRNA. The established carcinoma cell lines expressed MRP1, MRP4, and MRP5, most of them also MRP2, MRP3, MRP7, and BCRP, but none contained detectable amounts of MRP6, MRP8, or MRP9 mRNA. Immunoblot analyses demonstrated presence of MRP1, MRP4, and MRP5 protein in all, but MRP3 and BCRP protein only in some of these cells. Compared to parental Capan-1 cells, Capan-1 cells with acquired chemoresistance towards 5-fluorouracil showed an upregulated mRNA and protein expression of MRP3, MRP4, and MRP5. In addition, silencing of MRP5 by RNA interference resulted in enhanced sensitivity of parental Capan-1 cells towards 5-fluorouracil cytotoxicity. Conclusion: MRP3, MRP4, and MRP5 are upregulated in 5-fluorouracil-resistant cells, and MRP5 contributes to 5-FU resistance in pancreatic carcinoma cells.
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