We have studied the structural order of the lipid phase of plasma membranes from P388 murine leukemia cells and from a Doxorubicin-resistant subline, P388/ADR, using electron spin resonance spectroscopy and fluorescence depolarization measurements. Measurements of the order parameter, S, following incubation of cells from both lines with the N-oxyl-4′-4′-dimethyloxazolidine derivative of 5-ketostearic acid show higher values for the resistant cells at all temperatures where S was measured (4–37°). Fluorescence depolarization measurements following incubation of the cells, or cell fractions, with 1,6-diphenylhexatriene indicate more restricted motion of the probe in resistant cells. These measurements also show increased amounts of cytoplasmic lipid in the resistant cells.
The higher degree of structural order in the lipid phase of the plasma membranes of P388/ADR cells and their larger intracellular lipid content may account for the decreased rate of intracellular accumulation of anthracycline drugs (and other compounds) seen in these cells and, in part, for their relative resistance to the cytotoxic effects of these drugs.