The major known mechanisms of resistance to etoposide include altered expression of its target enzyme, topoisomerase II (Topo II), and the multidrug-resistant phenotypes encoded by the mdr1 and MRP (multidrug resistance-associated protein) genes. There is little information regarding the distribution, frequency, and origin of these mechanisms in cancer cells.We performed fluctuation analysis experiments with the human sarcoma cell line, MES-SA, to assess 1) if selection or induction mechanisms are involved in resistance to etoposide, 2) mutation rates for cellular resistance to etoposide, and 3) the nature of the single-step selected surviving clones.Three groups of 10 flasks were seeded with more than 2000 cells each and allowed to grow to near confluence (approximately 3 x 10(6) cells per flask). After reseeding, each group received etoposide for 1 week at a final concentration of 0.5 microM (group A), 1.0 microM (group B), and 5.0 microM (group C). Surviving colonies in each of the 30 populations were scored and individually harvested.Mutation rates were estimated at 2.9 x 10(-6) (group A), 5.7 x 10(-7) (group B), and 1.7 x 10(-7) (group C) per cell generation. Of 61 propagated colonies, four of 26 from group A, five of 19 from group B, and none of 16 from group C were stably resistant. Analysis of variance supported the hypothesis of spontaneous mutations rather than induction, conferring etoposide resistance in groups A and B. Five of the stably resistant clones were cross-resistant to doxorubicin. Analysis by polymerase chain reaction failed to detect the expression of the multidrug-resistant gene mdr1 messenger RNA (mRNA) in any of the clones. No increase in expression of the MRP gene was observed. However, a significant decrease in both Topo II alpha and II beta mRNA (30%-70%) was found in six of seven stably resistant and six of six unstably resistant mutants.Our study demonstrates that resistance to etoposide arises spontaneously, with most clones surviving either stochastically or through very labile mechanisms of resistance. The experimental design has derived a set of resistant mutants from a single-step selection. In those clones, decreased expression of Topo II is the predominant mechanism selected.These findings suggest that stable resistance to etoposide chemotherapy may be acquired by selection of spontaneously arising mutants rather than induction by drug exposure. The stably resistant clones may represent descendants from a single mutational event in each population.
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View details for PubMedID 8028036