The combination of the m2 muscarinic receptor agonist and chemotherapy affects drug resistance in neuroblastoma cells

Anna Maria Lucianò, Elisa Perciballi, Mario Fiore, Donatella Del Bufalo, Ada Maria Tata

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


One of the major limits of chemotherapy is depending on the ability of the cancer cells to elude and adapt to different drugs. Recently, we demonstrated how the activation of the M2 muscarinic receptor could impair neuroblastoma cell proliferation. In the present paper, we investigate the possible effects mediated by the preferential M2 receptor agonist arecaidine propargyl ester (APE) on drug resistance in two neuroblastoma cell lines, SK-N-BE and SK-N-BE(2C), a sub-clone presenting drug resistance. In both cell lines, we compare the expression of the M2 receptor and the effects mediated by the M2 agonist APE on cell cycle, demonstrating a decreased percentage of cells in S phase and an accumulation of SK-N-BE cells in G1 phase, while the APE treatment of SK-N-BE(2C) cells induced a block in G2/M phase. The withdrawal of the M2 agonist from the medium shows that only the SK-N-BE(2C) cells are able to rescue cell proliferation. Further, we demonstrate that the co-treatment of low doses of APE with doxorubicin or cisplatin significantly counteracts cell proliferation when compared with the single treatment. Analysis of the expression of ATP-binding cassette (ABC) efflux pumps demonstrates the ability of the M2 agonist to downregulate their expression and that this negative modulation may be dependent on N-MYC decreased expression induced by the M2 agonist. Our data demonstrate that the combined effect of low doses of conventional drugs and the M2 agonist may represent a new promising therapeutic approach in neuroblastoma treatment, in light of its significant impact on drug resistance and the possible reduction in the side effects caused by high doses of chemotherapy drugs.

Original languageEnglish
Article number8433
Pages (from-to)1-16
Number of pages16
JournalInternational Journal of Molecular Sciences
Issue number22
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2 2020


  • Cisplatin
  • Doxorubicin
  • Drug resistance
  • Efflux pumps
  • M2 muscarinic receptors
  • Neuroblastoma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Catalysis
  • Molecular Biology
  • Spectroscopy
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Organic Chemistry
  • Inorganic Chemistry


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