Single-step doxorubicin-selected cancer cells overexpress the ABCG2 drug transporter through epigenetic changes

Br J Cancer. 2008 May 6;98(9):1515-24. doi: 10.1038/sj.bjc.6604334. Epub 2008 Apr 1.


Understanding the mechanisms of multidrug resistance (MDR) could improve clinical drug efficacy. Multidrug resistance is associated with ATP binding cassette (ABC) transporters, but the factors that regulate their expression at clinically relevant drug concentrations are poorly understood. We report that a single-step selection with low doses of anti-cancer agents, similar to concentrations reported in vivo, induces MDR that is mediated exclusively by ABCG2. We selected breast, ovarian and colon cancer cells (MCF-7, IGROV-1 and S-1) after exposure to 14 or 21 nM doxorubicin for only 10 days. We found that these cells overexpress ABCG2 at the mRNA and protein levels. RNA interference analysis confirmed that ABCG2 confers drug resistance. Furthermore, ABCG2 upregulation was facilitated by histone hyperacetylation due to weaker histone deacetylase 1-promoter association, indicating that these epigenetic changes elicit changes in ABCG2 gene expression. These studies indicate that the MDR phenotype arises following low-dose, single-step exposure to doxorubicin, and further suggest that ABCG2 may mediate early stages of MDR development. This is the first report to our knowledge of single-step, low-dose selection leading to overexpression of ABCG2 by epigenetic changes in multiple cancer cell lines.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural

MeSH terms

  • ATP Binding Cassette Transporter, Subfamily G, Member 2
  • ATP-Binding Cassette Transporters / genetics
  • ATP-Binding Cassette Transporters / metabolism*
  • Acetylation
  • Antibiotics, Antineoplastic / pharmacology*
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology
  • Blotting, Western
  • Breast Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Breast Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Chromatin Immunoprecipitation
  • Colonic Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Colonic Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Doxorubicin / pharmacology*
  • Drug Resistance, Multiple
  • Drug Resistance, Neoplasm
  • Epigenesis, Genetic*
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic
  • Histones / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Mitoxantrone / pharmacology
  • Multidrug Resistance-Associated Proteins / metabolism
  • Neoplasm Proteins / genetics
  • Neoplasm Proteins / metabolism*
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Neoplasms / genetics
  • Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / metabolism
  • RNA, Messenger / isolation & purification
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • RNA, Small Interfering / metabolism
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Up-Regulation


  • ABCC4 protein, human
  • ABCG2 protein, human
  • ATP Binding Cassette Transporter, Subfamily G, Member 2
  • ATP-Binding Cassette Transporters
  • Antibiotics, Antineoplastic
  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Histones
  • Multidrug Resistance-Associated Proteins
  • Neoplasm Proteins
  • RNA, Messenger
  • RNA, Small Interfering
  • Doxorubicin
  • Mitoxantrone