Chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) cells express the active BCR-ABL1 protein, which has been targeted by imatinib in CML therapy, but resistance to this drug is an emerging problem. BCR-ABL1 induces endogenous oxidative stress promoting genomic instability and imatinib resistance. In the present work, we investigated the extent of oxidative stress, DNA damage, apoptosis and expression of apoptosis-related genes in BCR-ABL1 cells sensitive and resistant to imatinib. The resistance resulted either from the Y253H mutation in the BCR-ABL1 gene or incubation in increasing concentrations of imatinib (AR). UV irradiation at a dose rate of 0.12 J/(m2 · s) induced more DNA damage detected by the T4 pyrimidine dimers glycosylase and hOGG1, recognizing oxidative modifications to DNA bases in imatinib-resistant than -sensitive cells. The resistant cells displayed also higher susceptibility to UV-induced apoptosis. These cells had lower native mitochondrial membrane potential than imatinib-sensitive cells, but UV-irradiation reversed that relationship. We observed a significant lowering of the expression of the succinate dehydrogenase (SDHB) gene, encoding a component of the complex II of the mitochondrial respiratory chain, which is involved in apoptosis sensing. Although detailed mechanism of imatinib resistance in AR cells in unknown, we detected the presence of the Y253H mutation in a fraction of these cells. In conclusion, imatinib-resistant cells may display a different extent of genome instability than their imatinib-sensitive counterparts, which may follow their different reactions to both endogenous and exogenous DNA-damaging factors, including DNA repair and apoptosis.
Keywords: BCR-ABL1; DNA damage; apoptosis; imatinib resistance; reactive oxygen species.