Drug resistance is the major obstacle in successfully treating high-risk neuroblastoma. The aim of this study was to investigate the basis of etoposide-resistance in neuroblastoma. To this end, a MYCN-amplified neuroblastoma cell line (HTLA-230) was treated with increasing etoposide concentrations and an etoposide-resistant cell line (HTLA-ER) was obtained. HTLA-ER cells, following etoposide exposure, evaded apoptosis by altering Bax/Bcl2 ratio. While both cell populations shared a homozygous TP53 mutation encoding a partially-functioning protein, a mono-allelic deletion of 13q14.3 locus, where the P53 inducible miRNAs 15a/16-1 are located, and the consequent miRNA down-regulation were detected only in HTLA-ER cells. This event correlated with BMI-1 oncoprotein up-regulation which caused a decrease in p16 tumor suppressor content and a metabolic adaptation of HTLA-ER cells. These results, taken collectively, highlight the role of miRNAs 15a/16-1 as markers of chemoresistance.
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