Nuclear immunolocalization of P-glycoprotein in multidrug-resistant cell lines showing similar mechanisms of doxorubicin distribution

N. Baldini, K. Scotlandi, M. Serra, T. Shikita, N. Zini, A. Ognibene, S. Santi, R. Ferracini, N. M. Maraldi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The MDR1 gene product P-glycoprotein is a plasma membrane efflux pump which is responsible for multiple drug resistance of cancer cells. Although the ability of multidrug-resistant cells to exclude drugs from the nucleus is a distinctive and possibly the main mechanism for resistance against a number of drugs, including doxorubicin, this phenomenon is not entirely understood. In this paper, the relationship between doxorubicin subcellular distribution and P-glycoprotein activity at different cell sites has been investigated by different techniques. Cytofluorometry and confocal microscopy were used to study doxorubicin subcellular distribution in U-2 OS human osteosarcoma cells and in the multidrug-resistant variant U-2 OS/DX580. Stable levels of doxorubicin accumulation were found in the nuclei of sensitive cells, whereas the absence of detectable levels of drug in the nuclei of resistant cells could be attributed to an energy-dependent mechanism. Moreover, in resistant cells, inhibition of P-glycoprotein activity was able to induce drug accumulation in the nuclei of resistant cells and to achieve cytotoxic effects comparable to those observed in sensitive cells. Similar results were also found in isolated nuclei from U-2 OS/DX580 cells. The expression of P-glycoprotein in U-2 OS/DX580 and in two other multidrug-resistant cell lines (SW948-R-300 and LoVo-R-100) was investigated by confocal microscopy and immunoelectron microscopy, by using a panel of monoclonal antibodies directed against this protein. Higher levels of P-glycoprotein expression, not only in the plasma membrane and inside the cytoplasm, but also in the nucleus, were found in U-2 OS/DX580 and in LoVo-R-100 multidrug-resistant cells compared to their corresponding sensitive cells. SW918-R-300 cells, featuring increased amounts of MDR1 mRNA but lacking P-glycoprotein expression at the cell surface, showed a higher P-glycoprotein immunolabeling only in the nucleus and in the cytoplasm. The localization of P-glycoprotein in the nucleus of multidrug resistant cells was confirmed also by studies on isolated nuclei and nuclear matrices, and by Western blot analysis on total cell and isolated nuclear extracts. These findings, suggesting the possible involvement of nuclear P-glycoprotein in the regulation of subcellular doxorubicin distribution in multidrug-resistant cells, open new insights on the mechanisms of P-glycoprotein-mediated resistance to anticancer drugs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)226-239
Number of pages14
JournalEuropean Journal of Cell Biology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1995


  • Doxorubicin
  • Multidrug resistance
  • Nucleus
  • P-glycoprotein

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Cell Biology


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