The multidrug resistance-associated protein (MRP) gene is a member of the ATP-binding cassette transporter gene superfamily and may be partially responsible for clinical drug resistance. Reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction was used to measure MRP mRNA in normal hematopoietic cells from bone marrow and peripheral blood as well as patients with high risk acute myelocytic leukemia and multiple myeloma. All normal peripheral blood cells, regardless of cell lineage (CD4, CD8, CD14, CD15, CD19, CD56), expressed a similar basal level of MRP mRNA. Specimens from bone marrow containing mixed lineages also expressed a similar basal level of MRP expression. In patients with acute myelocytic leukemia, 10 of 12 (83%) of the specimens had detectable MRP mRNA, but the level of expression was similar to that of normal blood cells and low compared to a cell line known to overexpress MRP (H69/AR). All myeloma patients (12 of 12) had detectable MRP mRNA expression at levels comparable to normal peripheral blood and bone marrow cells. We conclude that MRP is commonly expressed in normal hematopoietic cells as well as certain hematopoietic malignancies. The therapeutic relevance of MRP expression is unknown, but these studies emphasize the importance of measuring MRP expression in normal cells as a point of reference and comparison for detection in malignant cells. We also recommend obtaining sequential specimens from patients, which may reveal an increased expression of MRP from baseline as the disease progresses and becomes resistant.

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Supported in part by National Cancer Institute Grants 17094 and 43043 to W. S. D.

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