Different modalities of intercellular membrane exchanges mediate cell-to-cell P-glycoprotein transfers in MCF-7 breast cancer cells

Jennifer Pasquier, Ludovic Galas, Céline Boulangé-Lecomte, Damien Rioult, Florence Bultelle, Pierre Magal, Glenn Webb, Frank Le Foll

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78 Citations (Scopus)


Multi-drug resistance (MDR) is a phenomenon by which tumor cells exhibit resistance to a variety of chemically unrelated chemotherapeutic drugs. The classical form of multidrug resistance is connected to overexpression of membrane P-glycoprotein (P-gp), which acts as an energy dependent drug efflux pump. P-glycoprotein expression is known to be controlled by genetic and epigenetic mechanisms. Untilnowprocesses of P-gp gene up-regulation and resistant cell selection were considered sufficient to explain the emergence of MDR phenotype within a cell population. Recently, however, "non- genetic" acquisitions of MDR by cell-to-cell P-gp transfers have been pointed out. In the present study we show that intercellular transfers of functional P-gp occur by two different but complementary modalities through donor-recipient cells interactions in the absence of drug selection pressure. P-glycoprotein and drug efflux activity transfers were followed over 7 days by confocal microscopy and flow cytometry in drug-sensitive parental MCF-7 breast cancer cells co-cultured with P-gp overexpressing resistant variants. An early process of remote transfer was established based on the release and binding of P-gp-containing microparticles. Microparticle- mediated transfers were detected after only 4 h of incubation. We also identify an alternative mode of transfer by contact, consisting of cell-to-cell P-gp trafficking by tunneling nanotubes bridging neighboring cells. Our findings supply new mechanistic evidences for the extragenetic emergence of MDR in cancer cells and indicate that new treatment strategies designed to overcome MDR may include inhibition of both microparticles and Tunneling nanotube-mediated intercellular P-gp transfers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7374-7387
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 2 Mar 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology

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