P-glycoprotein enhances TRAIL-triggered apoptosis in multidrug resistant cancer cells by interacting with the death receptor DR5

Soo Jung Park, Ching Huang Wu, Mi Ran Choi, Farhad Najafi, Armaghan Emami, Ahmad R. Safa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

25 Scopus citations


The death-inducing cytokine TRAIL is a promising agent for anticancer therapy since it preferentially kills cancer versus normal cells; however, some cancer cells are TRAIL-resistant. We initially explored whether overexpression of the MDR1 gene product P-glycoprotein (P-gp), which causes multidrug resistance (MDR) in cancer cells, also contributes to TRAIL-resistance. Surprisingly, our results revealed that P-gp-overexpression enhances TRAIL-induced apoptosis not only in neoplastic cells transfected with the MDR1 gene but also in MDR variants selected with cytotoxic anticancer agents. Mechanistic analysis of TRAIL-induced apoptosis in the MDR1-transfected MCF-7 breast cancer cell line BC-19 revealed that TRAIL-triggered significantly more apoptosis in these cells compared with parental MCF-7 cells by binding to the TRAIL receptor DR5. DR5 but not DR4 engagement by TRAIL attenuated cellular ATP levels by robustly stimulating P-gp ATPase activity, and thus triggered P-gp-dependent apoptosis by depletion of the cellular ATP pool. In addition to hyperactive P-gp-mediated ATP hydrolysis, TRAIL-induced, P-gp-potentiated apoptosis was associated with activation of caspases-6, -7, -8, and -9; Bid cleavage; and mitochondrial depolarization. P-gp interacted with the TRAIL receptors DR4, DR5, and DcR1 in plasma membranes and enhanced TRAIL binding to DR5. Interestingly, the decreased level of the decoy TRAIL receptor, DcR1, in BC-19 cells further sensitized these cells to TRAIL. Therefore, both extrinsic and intrinsic apoptosis pathways are involved in this process. These findings for the first time reveal that TRAIL treatment preferentially causes apoptosis in P-gp-overexpressing MDR cells, and suggests significant clinical implications for the use of TRAIL in treating neoplasms that have failed chemotherapy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)293-307
Number of pages15
JournalBiochemical Pharmacology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 28 2006


  • Apoptosis
  • Caspases
  • MDR1 gene
  • P-glycoprotein

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology

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