Biochemical and pharmacological characterization of MCF-7 drug-sensitive and AdrR multidrug-resistant human breast tumor xenografts in athymic nude mice

Biochem Pharmacol. 1991 Jul 5;42(2):391-402. doi: 10.1016/0006-2952(91)90727-m.


The phenotypic expression of multidrug resistance by the doxorubicin-selected AdrR human breast tumor cell line is associated with overexpression of plasma membrane P-170 glycoprotein and increased cytosolic selenium-dependent GSH-peroxidase activity relative to the parental MCF-7 wild-type line (WT). To determine whether doxorubicin resistance by AdrR cells persists in vivo, and to further investigate the possibility of biochemical differences between WT and AdrR solid tumors, both tumor cell lines were grown as subcutaneous xenografts in athymic nude mice. Tumorigenicity depended upon cell inoculation burden, and tumor incidence was similar for both cell lines (greater than 80% tumor takes at 10(7) cells/mouse) at 14 days, provided 17 beta-estradiol was supplied to the animals bearing the WT tumors. However, the growth rate for the AdrR xenografts was only about half that of WT xenografts. Doxorubicin (2-8 mg/kg, i.p., injected weekly) significantly diminished the growth of the WT tumors, but AdrR solid tumors failed to respond to doxorubicin. The accumulation of 14C-labeled doxorubicin was 2-fold greater in WT xenografts that in AdrR, although there were no differences in host organ drug levels in mice bearing either type of tumors. Membrane P-170 glycoprotein mRNA was detected by slot-blot analysis in the AdrR tumors, but not in WT. Electron spin resonance 5,5-dimethylpyrroline-N-oxide-spin-trapping experiments with microsomes and mitochondria from WT and AdrR xenographs demonstrated a 2-fold greater oxygen radical (superoxide and hydroxyl) formation from activated doxorubicin with WT xenographs compared to AdrR. Selenium-dependent glutathione (GSH)-peroxidase, superoxide dismutase and GSH-S-aryltransferase activities in AdrR xenografts were elevated relative to WT. Although the activities of the latter two enzymes were similar to those measured in both tumor cell lines, GSH-peroxidase activities were elevated 70-fold (WT) and 10-fold (AdrR) in xenografts compared to tumor cells. In contrast, in both WT and AdrR solid tumors in vivo, catalase, NAD(P)H-oxidoreductases, and glutathione disulfide (GSSG)-reductase activities, and GSH and GSSG levels were not markedly different, and were essentially the same as in cells in vitro. Like the MDR cells in culture, AdrR tumor xenografts were extremely resistant to doxorubicin and retained most of the characteristics of the altered phenotype. These results suggest that WT and AdrR breast tumor xenografts provide a useful model for the study of biochemical and pharmacological mechanisms of drug resistance by solid tumors in vivo.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • ATP Binding Cassette Transporter, Subfamily B, Member 1
  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Combined Chemotherapy Protocols / therapeutic use
  • Breast Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Breast Neoplasms / genetics
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology
  • Cell Line / enzymology
  • Cytochrome P-450 Enzyme System / metabolism
  • Doxorubicin / administration & dosage
  • Doxorubicin / pharmacokinetics
  • Doxorubicin / pharmacology*
  • Drug Resistance / genetics
  • Drug Tolerance / genetics
  • Electron Spin Resonance Spectroscopy
  • Glutathione / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Hydroxides / metabolism
  • Hydroxyl Radical
  • Membrane Glycoproteins / genetics
  • Mice
  • Mice, Nude
  • Neoplasm Transplantation
  • Phenotype
  • RNA, Messenger / analysis
  • Subcellular Fractions / metabolism
  • Superoxides / metabolism


  • ATP Binding Cassette Transporter, Subfamily B, Member 1
  • Hydroxides
  • Membrane Glycoproteins
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Superoxides
  • Hydroxyl Radical
  • Doxorubicin
  • Cytochrome P-450 Enzyme System
  • Glutathione