The human organic cation transporter OCT1 mediates high affinity uptake of the anticancer drug daunorubicin

Sci Rep. 2016 Feb 10;6:20508. doi: 10.1038/srep20508.


Anthracyclines such as daunorubicin are anticancer agents that are transported into cells, and exert cytotoxicity by blocking DNA metabolism. Although there is evidence for active uptake of anthracyclines into cells, the specific transporter involved in this process has not been identified. Using the high-grade serous ovarian cancer cell line TOV2223G, we show that OCT1 mediated the high affinity (Km ~ 5 μM) uptake of daunorubicin into the cells, and that micromolar amounts of choline completely abolished the drug entry. OCT1 downregulation by shRNA impaired daunorubicin uptake into the TOV2223G cells, and these cells were significantly more resistant to the drug in comparison to the control shRNA. Transfection of HEK293T cells, which accommodated the ectopic expression of OCT1, with a plasmid expressing OCT1-EYFP showed that the transporter was predominantly localized to the plasma membrane. These transfected cells exhibited an increase in the uptake of daunorubicin in comparison to control cells transfected with an empty EYFP vector. Furthermore, a variant of OCT1, OCT1-D474C-EYFP, failed to enhance daunorubicin uptake. This is the first report demonstrating that human OCT1 is involved in the high affinity transport of anthracyclines. We postulate that OCT1 defects may contribute to the resistance of cancer cells treated with anthracyclines.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents / chemistry
  • Antineoplastic Agents / metabolism*
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology
  • Biological Transport / drug effects
  • Blotting, Western
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Survival / drug effects
  • Choline / pharmacology
  • Daunorubicin / chemistry
  • Daunorubicin / metabolism*
  • Daunorubicin / pharmacology
  • Ergothioneine / pharmacology
  • HEK293 Cells
  • Humans
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence
  • Organic Cation Transporter 1 / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Organic Cation Transporter 1 / genetics
  • Organic Cation Transporter 1 / metabolism*
  • Plasmids / genetics
  • Plasmids / metabolism
  • RNA Interference
  • RNA, Small Interfering / metabolism
  • Transfection


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Organic Cation Transporter 1
  • RNA, Small Interfering
  • Ergothioneine
  • Choline
  • Daunorubicin