The growth requirements and transport characteristics of folate compounds in a methotrexate-resistant L1210/R81 cell line were compared with parental cells. Concentrations for half-maximal growth of the resistant cells with folate (350 nm) and 5-formyltetrahydrofolate (20 nm) were found to be higher by 2.7-fold and 20-fold, respectively, relative to the parent, suggesting that changes had occurred in the transport of these folate compounds. Transport measurements revealed that the resistant cells have lost the capacity to transport methotrexate and other folate compounds via the reduced-folate transport system but that a second previously undescribed transport system is present. Uptake of folate via this second route is energy dependent, exhibits saturation kinetics, can be inhibited by substrate analogues, and is activated by a reduction in pH. The pH effect is substantial since uptake at 5.0 µm folate can be increased 10-fold by decreasing the pH from 7.4 to 6.2. The observed Kt for half-maximal influx of folate at pH 6.8 was 5.2 µm, and the Vmax was 0.55 pmol/min/mg of protein. Ki values for methotrexate, 5-methyltetrahydrofolate, and 5-formyltetrahydrofolate were 10.2, 3.2, and 2.7 µm, respectively. Transport activity was not affected by depleting internal stores of folate by growth in folate-free medium, and this same transport system was also present in comparable amounts in wild-type cells. In the latter case, interfering uptake via the reduced-folate transport system was blocked by bromosulfophthalein and thiamine pyrophosphate. Methotrexate and 5-formyltetrahydrofolate were also transported via this alternative, pH-dependent route, whereas little or no uptake of 5-methyltetrahydrofolate could be detected. The results indicate that antifolate resistance in L1210/R81 cells was induced by inactivating the reduced-folate transport system and by utilizating a secondary route which has a low capacity for transporting methotrexate but whose activity is sufficient to permit cell growth in medium supplemented with folate or 5-formyltetrahydrofolate.

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This work was supported by Grant CA 23970 from the National Cancer Institute (Research Institute Manuscript 5943-BCR).

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