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We studied the effect of the antimalarial drug mefloquine on the resistance of K562 cells to doxorubicin. Mefloquine synergistically potentiated the cytotoxicity of doxorubicin for doxorubicin-resistant K562 cells (K562/DXR) at a concentration of 0.5-3 microM, but had hardly any synergistic effect in the parental cell line (K562) at the same concentration. Mefloquine was more potent than verapamil, a known modulator of multidrug-resistance. Since doxorubicin resistance in these cells is associated with the expression of high levels of P-glycoprotein, we evaluated the effect of mefloquine and of P-glycoprotein activity in cytofluorographic efflux experiments with the fluorescent dye rhodamine 123. Our results indicate that mefloquine inhibits the P-glycoprotein pump-efflux activity in a dose-related manner. Moreover, mefloquine reduces the expression of the immunoreactive P-glycoprotein in K562/DXR cells as evaluated by cytofluorimetric assay. Taken together, the results indicate that mefloquine reverses the multidrug-resistance phenotype through direct interaction with P-glycoprotein.


R Fujita, M Ishikawa, M Takayanagi, Y Takayanagi, K Sasaki. Enhancement of doxorubicin activity in multidrug-resistant cells by mefloquine. Methods and findings in experimental and clinical pharmacology. 2000 Jun;22(5):281-4

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PMID: 11031728

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