Intranuclear drug concentration in cells treated with doxorubicin (DXR) or with 4′-deoxy-4′-iododoxorubicin (IDX) was measured by means of a quantitative microspectrofluorometric technique recently developed by us. Resolution of free and bound drug contributions in fluorescence emission spectra, as collected from a microvolume of single living cell nuclel, provided concentration data with about 10% indetermination. Uptake of DXR and IDX into the nucleus of K562 cells and DXR-resistant K562/DXR cells could then be studied with a sensitive, nondestructive technique. Growth inhibitory concentrations of K562 and K562/DXR cells, when measured with respect to drug content in the medium, differed by a factor of 25 in the case of DXR and by a factor of three in the case of IDX. By contrast, intranuclear drug concentrations measured at corresponding growth inhibitory concentrations are found to be nearly constant, i.e., independent of cellular-resistant phenotype and of anthracycline structure. This result supports an identical mechanism of action for the two drugs, most probably targeted to the nucleus, and ascribes to intracellular transport the different potency of the two drugs in the two cell lines.

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