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Role of P-Glycoprotein in Evolution of Populations of Chronic Myeloid Leukemia Cells Treated with Imatinib

T. P. Stromskaya1*, E. Yu. Rybalkina1, S. S. Kruglov2, T. N. Zabotina1, E. B. Mechetner3, A. G. Turkina2, and A. A. Stavrovskaya1

1Institute of Carcinogenesis, Blokhin Russian Cancer Research Center, Russian Academy of Medical Sciences, Kashirskoe Shosse 24, 115478 Moscow, Russia; E-mail: stromsktat@mail.ru

2National Hematology Research Center, Russian Academy of Medical Sciences, Novozybkovsky pr. 4, 125167 Moscow, Russia; E-mail: tur@blood.ru

3University of California at Irvine, Irvine Hall, Irvine, CA 92697, USA; E-mail: emechetner@cox.net

* To whom correspondence should be addressed.

Received May 30, 2007; Revision received August 14, 2007
Imatinib mesylate (imatinib) is a new generation preparation that is now successfully used for treatment of cancer, particularly for chemotherapy of chronic myeloid leukemia (CML). Imatinib inhibits the activity of chimeric kinase BCR-ABL, which is responsible for the development of CML. The goal of this study was to investigate the role of a multidrug resistance protein, P-glycoprotein (Pgp), in the evolution of CML treated with imatinib. We demonstrate here that although imatinib is a substrate for Pgp, cultured CML cells (strain K562/i-S9), overexpressing active Pgp, do not exhibit imatinib resistance. Studies of CML patients in the accelerated phase have shown variations in the number of Pgp-positive cells (Pgp+) among individual patients treated with imatinib. During treatment of patients with imatinib for 6-12 months, the number of Pgp-positive cells significantly increased in most patients. The high number of Pgp+ cells remained in patients at least for 4.5 years and correlated with active Rhodamine 123 (Rh123) efflux. Such correlation was not found in the group of imatinib-resistant patients examined 35-60 months after onset of imatinib therapy: cells from the imatinib-resistant patients exhibited efficient Rh123 efflux irrespectively of Pgp expression. We also compared the mode of Rh123 efflux by cells from CML patients who underwent imatinib treatment for 6-24 months and the responsiveness of patients to this therapy. There were significant differences in survival of patients depending on the absence or the presence of Rh123 efflux. In addition to Pgp, patients' cells expressed other transport proteins of the ABC family. Our data suggest that treatment with imatinib causes selection of leukemic stem cells characterized by expression of Pgp and other ABC transporters.
KEY WORDS: P-glycoprotein, chronic myeloid leukemia, imatinib, tyrosine kinase inhibitor, BCR-ABL

DOI: 10.1134/S0006297908010045