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Multidrug resistance mechanisms in imatinib resistant human chronic myeloid leukemia cells

Baran, Yusuf
In this study, mechanisms of resistance to Imatinib-induced apoptosis in human K562 and Meg-1 chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) cells were examined. Continuous exposure of cells to step-wise increasing concentrations of Imatinib resulted in the selection of 0.2 and 1 ́M İmatinib resistant cells. Measurement of endogenous ceramide levels showed that treatment with Imatinib increased the generation of C18-ceramide significantly, which is mainly synthesized by the human longevity assurance gene 1 (hLASS1), in sensitive, but not in resistant cells. Mechanistically, analysis of mRNA and enzyme activity levels of hLASS1 in the absence or presence of Imatinib did not show any significant differences in the resistant cells when compared to its sensitive counterparts, suggesting that accumulation and/or metabolism, but not the synthesis of ceramide, might be altered in resistant cells. iv Indeed, further studies demonstrated that expression levels, and enzyme activity of sphingosine kinase-1 (SK-1), increased significantly in resistant K562 or Meg-1 cells. The expression levels of glucosyl ceramide synthase (GCS) also increased in resistant cells, comparing to the sensitive counterparts, which indicates conversion of pro-apoptotic ceramide to glucosyl ceramide. Expression analyses of BCR-ABL gene demonstrated that expression levels of BCR-ABL gene increased gradually as the cells acquired the resistance. However, Nucleotide sequence analyses of ABL kinase gene revealed that there was no mutation in Imatinib binding region of the gene in resistant cells. There was also an increase in expression levels of MDR1 gene in resistant cells, which transport the toxic substances outside of cells. In conclusion, these data show, for the first time, a role for endogenous ceramide synthesis via hLASS1 in Imatinib-induced apoptosis, and those alterations of the balance between the levels of ceramide and S1P. Mainly the overexpression of SK-1 seems to result in resistance to Imatinib in K562 cells. The cellular resistance may also result from conversion of ceramide to glucosyl ceramide, from overexpression of BCR-ABL and MDR1 genes but not due to mutations in Imatinib binding site of ABL kinase.