Cell cycle (Georgetown, Tex.)

The cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor roscovitine and the nucleoside analog sangivamycin induce apoptosis in caspase-3 deficient breast cancer cells independent of caspase mediated P-glycoprotein cleavage: implications for therapy of drug resistant breast cancers.

PMID 19342873


Resistance to multiple chemotherapeutic agents is a common clinical problem which can arise during cancer treatment. Drug resistance often involves overexpression of the multidrug resistance MDR1 gene, encoding P-glycoprotein (P-gp), a 170-kDa glycoprotein belonging to the ATP-binding cassette superfamily of membrane transporters. We have recently demonstrated apoptosis-induced, caspase-3-dependent P-gp cleavage in human T-lymphoblastoid CEM-R VBL100 cells. However, P-gp contain many aspartate residues which could be targeted by caspases other than caspase-3. To test whether other caspases could cleave P-gp in vivo, we investigated the fate of P-gp during roscovitine- and sangivamycin- induced apoptosis in MCF7 human breast cancer cells, as they lack functional caspase-3. MCF7 cells were stably transfected with human cDNA encoding P-gp. P-gp was cleaved in vitro by purified recombinant caspase-3, -6 and -7. However, P-gp cleavage was not detected in vivo in MCF7 cells induced to undergoing apoptosis by either roscovitine or sangivamycin, despite activation of both caspase-6 and -7. Interestingly, P-gp overexpressing MCF7 cells were more sensitive to either roscovitine or sangivamycin than wild-type cells, suggesting a novel potential therapeutic strategy against P-gp overexpressing cells. Taken together, our results support the concept that caspase-3 is the only caspase responsible for in vivo cleavage of P-gp and also highlight small molecules which could be effective in treating P-gp overexpressing cancers.