Pleiotropic resistance to rhodamine 123 (Rho-123) in Adriamycin (ADM)-resistant Friend leukemia cells was circumvented by cotreatment with 10 µm verapamil. Increased cytotoxicity corresponded to higher intracellular Rho-123 levels. The verapamil-induced increase of drug accumulation in resistant cells is accounted for at least in part by the blockage or slowing of Rho-123 efflux from these cells. In contrast, accumulation and consequent cytotoxicity of Rho-123 in sensitive cells are not increased by verapamil. Similar results were obtained when ADM was used in this cell system. These results suggest that the efflux system for Rho-123 and ADM in sensitive cells is either reduced or absent.

Although Rho-123 accumulates specifically in mitochondria and ADM mainly in the nucleus, the loss of these two different classes of compounds from resistant cells appears to occur via a similar or common mechanism. The similarities in drug transport between Rho-123 and ADM may have important implications when applied to an in vivo environment.

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Supported by NIH Grant CA 37109 and Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale CRL Grant 822034.

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