Transcriptional regulation of aldo-keto reductase 1C1 in HT29 human colon cancer cells resistant to methotrexate: role in the cell cycle and apoptosis

Biochem Pharmacol. 2008 Jan 15;75(2):414-26. doi: 10.1016/j.bcp.2007.08.034. Epub 2007 Sep 8.


While studying differentially expressed genes between sensitive and 10(-5)M Methotrexate (MTX) resistant HT29 human colon cancer cells, we identified some members of the aldo-keto reductase (AKR) superfamily. The study was followed with the member AKR1C1 (EC, validating its increase in mRNA and protein levels in MTX resistant cells. The genomic content for AKR1C1 remained unchanged between sensitive and resistant cells, thereby excluding a mechanism of AKR1C1 gene amplification. Thus, we cloned the AKR1C1 human promoter and performed luciferase experiments that revealed a transcriptional regulation of the gene in the resistant cells. Computational studies showed a putative binding site for the transcription factor Sp1. The co-transfection of Sp1 or Sp3 with different constructs of AKR1C1 promoter deletions, including and excluding the proximal GC-box, demonstrated a key role for these factors in regulating AKR1C1 transcriptional activity. Gel-shift assays revealed an increase in Sp1 and Sp3 binding in resistant compared to sensitive cells, without differences in Sp1 protein levels. Dephosphorylation of the extracts coincided with a decrease in Sp1 binding, which is consistent with a process of regulation of Sp1 by phosphorylation. We also investigated the possible relationship between AKR1C1 expression and MTX action. Overexpression of AKR1C1 counteracted the S-phase accumulation of cells and apoptosis caused by MTX treatment. This suggests a role of AKR1C1 in cell proliferation. Finally, overexpression of AKR1C1 in MTX sensitive HT29 cells conferred resistance to the chemotherapeutic agent and silencing of AKR1C1 by means of iRNA technology sensitized the cells to MTX.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • 20-Hydroxysteroid Dehydrogenases / genetics*
  • 20-Hydroxysteroid Dehydrogenases / physiology
  • Antimetabolites, Antineoplastic / pharmacology*
  • Apoptosis / drug effects*
  • Base Sequence
  • Cell Cycle / drug effects*
  • Drug Resistance, Neoplasm
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic*
  • HT29 Cells
  • Humans
  • Methotrexate / pharmacology*
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic
  • RNA, Small Interfering / pharmacology
  • Sp1 Transcription Factor / metabolism
  • Tetrahydrofolate Dehydrogenase / genetics
  • Transcription, Genetic


  • Antimetabolites, Antineoplastic
  • RNA, Small Interfering
  • Sp1 Transcription Factor
  • 20-Hydroxysteroid Dehydrogenases
  • 3 alpha-beta, 20 beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase
  • Tetrahydrofolate Dehydrogenase
  • Methotrexate