Modulation of doxorubicin resistance in multidrug-resistant cells by liposomes

A. R. Thierry, D. Vige, S. S. Coughlin, J. A. Belli, A. Dritschilo, A. Rahman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

110 Scopus citations


In this study, we have confirmed the ability of liposome-encapsulated doxorubicin to modulate drug resistance, as previously observed in CH LZ cells (Thierry et al., Cancer Commun. 1, 311-316, 1989), in two human multidrug-resistant (MDR) cell lines, the breast cancer MCF-7/ADR cell line, and the ovarian carcinoma SKVLB cell line. This effect was specific to MDR cells, as liposomally encapsulated doxorubicin did not enhance cell sensitivity to the drug in the parental cell lines. Cytotoxicity assays demonstrated that empty liposomes in the presence of free doxorubicin (Dox) reversed resistance to the drug at a level that may be higher than that observed when liposome-encapsulated Dox is used. This effect seems to be due to the high affinity of Dox for cardiolipin, one of the liposome components, which leads to the association of the drug and the cardiolipin-containing liposomes in the culture medium before entry into the cells. Neither pretreatment of empty liposomes before drug treatment nor combined incubation of vincristine and empty liposomes alter MDR in CH LZ cells, suggesting that the drug must be encapsulated or complexed to the liposomes to overcome MDR. Because MDR in CH LZ cells does not seem to be related to GSH level, MDR modulation by liposome-encapsulated Dox apparently may not be effected by altering the GSH function. These results suggest that the enhancement of sensitivity of MDR cells using Dox encapsulated in liposomes or complexed with liposomes may be explained by an increase in cell drug incorporation and by an intracellular drug redistribution. Fluorescence confocal microscopy study indicated that Dox is transported and distributed mainly in intracytoplasmic vesicles in SKVLB and MCF-7/ADR cells, whereas in parental cells the drug is located mainly in the nucleus. In addition, presentation of Dox in liposomes modifies the drug distribution pattern in MDR cells by partially shifting the drug to nuclear compartments. Thus, liposome- associated Dox may bypass the vesicular drug transport in MDR cells, resulting in the enhancement of the drug biological activity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)572-579
Number of pages8
JournalFASEB Journal
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1993
Externally publishedYes


  • P-glycoprotein
  • doxorubicin
  • drug intracellular distribution
  • drug resistance
  • liposomes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics


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