Resistance of colon cancer cells to long-term 5-fluorouracil exposure is correlated to the relative level of Bcl-2 and Bcl-X(L) in addition to Bax and p53 status

Int J Cancer. 2002 Apr 1;98(4):498-504. doi: 10.1002/ijc.10146.


Defects in apoptosis have been implicated in chemoresistance of colon cancer cells. We report here the ability to resist to 5-fluorouracil-induced apoptosis of 8 colon cancer cell lines differing in p53 and bax status: p53(-/0)bax(+/+) for TC7, SW480, HT-29; p53(+/+)bax(-/-) for LS174T, LoVo; p53(+/+) bax(+/-) for HCT116; p53(+/+) or p53(+/0)bax(+/+) for LS513 or HCT-EB, respectively. To approximate to the in vivo therapy, the cell lines were exposed to a long-term treatment of 5-FU. The analysis of proteins implicated in the apoptotic pathway has shown that the independent analysis of p53 or bax status was not sufficient to predict the extent of drug-resistance of all cell lines. In p53(+/+) cell lines but not in p53(-/0) cell lines, a low level of the pro-apoptotic Bax protein was correlated with a greater resistance of cells to 5-FU. In addition, we found that high levels of anti-apoptotic Bcl-2 and Bcl-x(L) proteins combined with a low level of Bax were correlated to high 5-FU resistance of wild-type p53 cell lines. The same correlation was obtained for 2 out of 3 mutated p53 cell lines. In conclusion, the relative levels of Bcl-2, Bcl-x(L) and Bax may altogether contribute to determine the resistance of a majority of colon tumor cells to long-term 5-FU treatment, whatever their p53 status.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antimetabolites, Antineoplastic / pharmacology*
  • Blotting, Western
  • Colonic Neoplasms / genetics
  • Colonic Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Colonic Neoplasms / pathology
  • Drug Resistance, Neoplasm
  • Fluorouracil / pharmacology*
  • Genotype
  • HT29 Cells / drug effects
  • HT29 Cells / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Mutation
  • Phenotype
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins / genetics
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins / metabolism*
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2 / genetics
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2 / metabolism
  • Time Factors
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured / drug effects
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured / metabolism
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53 / genetics
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53 / metabolism*
  • bcl-2-Associated X Protein
  • bcl-X Protein


  • Antimetabolites, Antineoplastic
  • BAX protein, human
  • BCL2L1 protein, human
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53
  • bcl-2-Associated X Protein
  • bcl-X Protein
  • Fluorouracil