Methotrexate and gamma-tert-butyl methotrexate transport in CEM and CEM/MTX human leukemic lymphoblasts

Biochem Pharmacol. 1993 Sep 1;46(5):871-6. doi: 10.1016/0006-2952(93)90496-j.


In a continuing investigation of determinants of their 200-fold methotrexate resistance and their collateral sensitivity to gamma-tert-butyl methotrexate, the ability of CEM/MTX cells to transport the two drugs was analyzed and compared with that of CEM cells. The Km and Vmax values for the influx of methotrexate into CEM cells did not differ significantly from those of CEM/MTX cells, and this was the case for gamma-tert-butyl methotrexate as well. Surface binding and influx rates were proportional to cell surface area, but differences in efflux rates and methotrexate uptake were too large to be explained on this basis. Neither methotrexate nor trimetrexate competed with gamma-tert-butyl methotrexate influx in CEM cells. However, both drugs perturbed the gamma-tert-butyl methotrexate steady state in CEM cells, resulting in slightly less uptake than with gamma-tert-butyl methotrexate alone. However, the major difference between the two cell types was in the methotrexate uptake plateau, which was much greater in the case of the parental cell line. A related observation was the more rapid efflux of methotrexate from CEM/MTX cells than from CEM cells. The poor uptake, the associated meager capacity to polyglutamylate methotrexate and the enhanced methotrexate efflux appear to be responsible for its decreased activity against CEM/MTX cells. Half-lives for gamma-tert-butyl methotrexate efflux were the same in both cell lines, allowing the drug to accumulate to cytotoxic levels despite its inability to form polyglutamates.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Cell Line / metabolism
  • Drug Resistance
  • Humans
  • Kinetics
  • Leukemia, Lymphoid / metabolism*
  • Methotrexate / analogs & derivatives*
  • Methotrexate / metabolism*
  • Tetrahydrofolate Dehydrogenase / analysis
  • Trimetrexate / metabolism


  • gamma-tert-butyl methotrexate
  • Tetrahydrofolate Dehydrogenase
  • Trimetrexate
  • Methotrexate