UBC Theses and Dissertations
Role of transporters in pancreatic cancer drug resistance Lo, Maisie K.Y.
Pancreatic cancer (PC) is known to be highly resistant to chemotherapy. Transporters, which regulate the influx and efflux of substrates across the plasma membrane, may play a role in PC drug resistance. ABC transporters are a large family of transmembrane proteins with diverse physiological functions, several of which play major roles in cancer drug resistance. Given that 90% of PC express a mutant K-ras oncogene and that PC are highly hypoxic, I postulated that constitutive K-ras activation and/or hypoxia may correlate with ABC transporter expression, which in turn may promote drug resistance in PC. Using normal and PC cell lines either overexpressing mutant K-ras or subjected to hypoxic treatment, mRNA expression was profiled for 48 ABC transporters. My findings indicate that expression of mutant K-ras and hypoxic treatment, as well as long-term exposure to chemotherapy, may contribute to the development of drug resistance in PC cells in part by inducing the expression of ABC transporters. Similar to ABC transporters, I investigated whether amino acid transporters would mediate drug resistance in PC. The Xc⁻ amino acid transporter (Xc⁻) mediates cellular uptake of cystine for the biosynthesis of glutathione, a major detoxifying agent. Because the Xc⁻ has been regulates the growth of various cancer cell types, and Xc⁻ is expressed in the pancreas, I postulated that the Xc⁻ may be involved in growth and drug resistance in PC. The Xc⁻ transporter is differentially expressed in normal pancreatic tissues and is overexpressed in PC in vivo. Using PC cell lines, I found that cystine uptake via the Xc⁻ was required for growth and survival in response to oxidative stress, and that expression of the Xc⁻ correlated with gemcitabine resistance. Accordingly, inhibition of Xc⁻ expression via siRNA reduced PC cell proliferation and restored sensitivity to gemcitabine. I also identified the anti-inflammatory drug sulfasalazine as a mixed inhibitor of the Xc⁻, which acts to inhibit cell proliferation via reducing Xc⁻ activity and not by reducing NFKB activity. My findings thus indicate that the Xc⁻ plays a role in PC growth in partby contributing to glutathione synthesis to promote PC cell proliferation, survival, and drug resistance.
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