The MRP gene (Cole et al., Science (Washington DC), 258: 1650–1654, 1992) encodes a membrane-bound glycoprotein the expression of which correlates with non-P-glycoprotein-mediated multidrug resistance in a variety of cultured human cell lines. Using an RNA-polymerase chain reaction assay, expression of this gene was examined in the highly chemoresistant pediatric malignancy, neuroblastoma. MRP expression was observed in 5 human neuroblastoma cell lines and in all 25 primary neuroblastoma tumors of stage I through IVS. Tumors with amplification of the N-myc oncogene were found to have significantly higher MRP expression than those with no amplification (P = 0.0016). Expression of the MRP gene in the tumor specimens was highly correlated with expression of the N-myc gene (P = 0.0009), while expression of the MDR1 gene, encoding P-glycoprotein, was not related to expression of either the N-myc or MRP genes. Decreased expression of the N-myc oncogene in neuroblastoma cell lines SH-SY5Y and BE(2)-C, following treatment with retinoic acid, was paralleled by down-regulation of MRP gene expression, contrasting with increased expression of the MDR1 gene. Expression of the MRP gene is thus common in both primary neuroblastoma tumors and cultured cell lines, and correlates with amplification and overexpression of the N-myc oncogene, which is central to the malignant phenotype of this disease.

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This work was supported by the Children's Leukaemia and Cancer Foundation, Inc. (Australia), and by a grant from the Leo and Jenny Leukaemia and Cancer Foundation of Australia.

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