Background: Cancer is a proliferation disease affecting a genetically unstable cell population, in which molecular alterations can be somatically inherited by genetic, epigenetic or extragenetic transmission processes, leading to a cooperation of neoplastic cells within tumoural tissue. The efflux protein P-glycoprotein (P-gp) is overexpressed in many cancer cells and has known capacity to confer multidrug resistance to cytotoxic therapies. Recently, cell-to-cell P-gp transfers have been shown. Herein, we combine experimental evidence and a mathematical model to examine the consequences of an intercellular P-gp trafficking in the extragenetic transfer of multidrug resistance from resistant to sensitive cell subpopulations.Methodology and Principal Findings: We report cell-to-cell transfers of functional P-gp in co-cultures of a P-gp overexpressing human breast cancer MCF-7 cell variant, selected for its resistance towards doxorubicin, with the parental sensitive cell line. We found that P-gp as well as efflux activity distribution are progressively reorganized over time in co-cultures analyzed by flow cytometry. A mathematical model based on a Boltzmann type integro-partial differential equation structured by a continuum variable corresponding to P-gp activity describes the cell populations in co-culture. The mathematical model elucidates the population elements in the experimental data, specifically, the initial proportions, the proliferative growth rates, and the transfer rates of P-gp in the sensitive and resistant subpopulations.Conclusions: We confirmed cell-to-cell transfer of functional P-gp. The transfer process depends on the gradient of P-gp expression in the donor-recipient cell interactions, as they evolve over time. Extragenetically acquired drug resistance is an additional aptitude of neoplastic cells which has implications in the diagnostic value of P-gp expression and in the design of chemotherapy regimens.Reviewers: This article was reviewed by Leonid Hanin, Anna Marciniak-Czochra and Marek Kimmel.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Modelling and Simulation
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
- Applied Mathematics