P-glycoprotein-dependent resistance of cancer cells toward the extrinsic TRAIL apoptosis signaling pathway

Hanan Galski, Tamar Oved-Gelber, Masha Simanovsky, Philip Lazarovici, Michael M. Gottesman, Arnon Nagler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The TNF-related apoptosis-inducing ligand (TRAIL or Apo2L) preferentially cause apoptosis of malignant cells in vitro and in vivo without severe toxicity. Therefore, TRAIL or agonist antibodies to the TRAIL DR4 and DR5 receptors are used in cancer therapy. However, many malignant cells are intrinsically resistant or acquire resistance to TRAIL. It has been previously proposed that the multidrug transporter P-glycoprotein (Pgp) might play a role in resistance of cells to intrinsic apoptotic pathways by interfering with components of ceramide metabolism or by modulating the electrochemical gradient across the plasma membrane. In this study we investigated whether Pgp also confers resistance toward extrinsic death ligands of the TNF family. To this end we focused our study on HeLa cells carrying a tetracycline- repressible plasmid system which shuts down Pgp expression in the presence of tetracycline. Our findings demonstrate that expression of Pgp is a significant factor conferring resistance to TRAIL administration, but not to other death ligands such as TNF-a and Fas ligand. Moreover, blocking Pgp transport activity sensitizes the malignant cells toward TRAIL. Therefore, Pgp transport function is required to confer resistance to TRAIL. Although the resistance to TRAIL-induced apoptosis is Pgp specific, TRAIL itself is not a direct substrate of Pgp. Pgp expression has no effect on the level of the TRAIL receptors DR4 and DR5. These findings might have clinical implications since the combination of TRAIL therapy with administration of Pgp modulators might sensitize TRAIL resistant tumors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)584-596
Number of pages13
JournalBiochemical Pharmacology
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Apoptosis
  • Modulators
  • P-glycoprotein
  • Resistance


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