We have previously identified and characterized a novel member of the ATP-binding cassette superfamily of transport proteins, multidrug resistance protein (MRP), and subsequently demonstrated that its overexpression is sufficient to confer multidrug resistance on previously sensitive cells (Cole et al., Science (Washington DC), 258: 1650–1654, 1992; Grant et al., Cancer Res. 54: 357–361, 1994). In the present study, we have transfected two different eukaryotic expression vectors containing MRP complementary DNA into HeLa cells to study the pharmacological phenotype produced exclusively by overexpression of human MRP. The drug resistance patterns of the two MRP-transfected cell populations were similar. They were characterized by a moderate (5- to 15-fold) level of resistance to doxorubicin, daunorubicin, epirubicin, vincristine, and etoposide, and a low (≤3-fold) level of resistance to taxol, vinblastine, and colchicine. The transfectants were not resistant to 9-alkyl anthracyclines, mitoxantrone, or cisplatin. The MRP-transfected cells were also resistant to some heavy metal anions including arsenite, arsenate, and trivalent and pentavalent antimonials but were not resistant to cadmium chloride. Accumulation of radiolabeled vincristine was reduced by 45% in the MRP-transfected cells and could be restored to the levels found in sensitive cells by depletion of ATP. Rates of vincristine efflux did not differ greatly in the sensitive and resistant cells. The cytotoxic effects of vincristine and doxorubicin could be enhanced in a dose-dependent fashion by coadministration of verapamil. Cyclosporin A also increased vincristine toxicity but had less effect on doxorubicin toxicity. The degree of chemosensitization by verapamil and cyclosporin A was similar in MRP-transfected cells and in cells transfected with the vector alone, suggesting that sensitization involved mechanisms independent of MRP expression. Verapamil and cyclosporin A caused a modest increase in vincristine accumulation in the resistant cells but did not restore levels to those of the sensitive cells. Taken together, these data indicate that drug-resistant cell lines generated by transfection with MRP complementary DNA display some but not all of the characteristics of MRP-overexpressing cell lines produced by drug selection in vitro. They further demonstrate that the multidrug resistance phenotype conferred by MRP is similar but not identical to that conferred by P-glycoprotein and includes resistance to arsenical and antimonial oxyanions.

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Supported by grants from the Medical Research Council of Canada (to S. P. C. C. and R. G. D.) and the National Cancer Institute of Canada with funds from the Canadian Cancer Society (to S. P. C. C.). S. P. C. C. is a Career Scientist of the Ontario Cancer Foundation. R. G. D. is the Stauffer Research Professor of Queen's University.

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