Background: Given that HIV-protease inhibitors (HIV-PIs) are substrates/inhibitors of the multidrug transporter ABCB1, can induce ABCB1 expression, and are used in combination with doxorubicin for AIDS-Kaposi's Sarcoma (KS) treatment, the role that ABCB1 plays in mediating multidrug resistance (MDR) in a fully transformed KS cell line (SLK) was explored.
Methods: The KS cells were exposed to both acute and chronic treatments of physiological concentrations of different HIV-PIs (indinavir, nelfinavir, atazanavir, ritonavir, or lopinavir), alone or together with doxorubicin. The ABCB1 mRNA and protein expression levels were then assessed by qRT-PCR and western blotting, flow cytometry, and immunofluorescence.
Results: Chronic treatment of SLK cells with one of the five HIV-PIs alone or together resulted in increased resistance to doxorubicin. Co-treatment with one of the HIV-PIs in combination with doxorubicin resulted in a synergistic increase in resistance to doxorubicin, and the degree of resistance was found to correlate with the expression of ABCB1. The SLK cells were also revealed to be cross-resistant to the structurally unrelated drug paclitaxel.
Conclusion: These studies suggest that ABCB1 is primarily responsible for mediating MDR in SLK cells selected with either HIV-PIs alone or in combination with doxorubicin. Therefore, the roles that ABCB1 and drug cocktails play in mediating MDR in KS in vivo should be evaluated.