Background: Previously, we have demonstrated that human ABCB5 is a full-sized ATP-binding cassette transporter that shares strong homology with ABCB1/P-glycoprotein. ABCB5-transfected cells showed resistance to taxanes and anthracyclines. Herein, we further screened ABCB5 substrates, and explored the mechanism of resistance. Methods: Sensitivity of the cells to test compounds was evaluated using cell growth inhibition assay. Cellular levels of buthionine sulfoximine (BSO), glutathione and amino acids were measured using HPLC and an enzyme-based assay. Cellular and vesicular transport of glutathione was evaluated by a radiolabeled substrate. Expression levels of glutathione-metabolizing enzymes were assessed by RT-PCR. Results: Human ABCB5-transfected 293/B5-11 cells and murine Abcb5-transfected 293/mb5-8 cells showed 6.5- and 14-fold higher resistance to BSO than the mock-transfected 293/mock cells, respectively. BSO is an inhibitor of gamma-glutamylcysteine ligase (GCL), which is a key enzyme of glutathione synthesis. 293/B5-11 and 293/mb5-8 cells also showed resistance to methionine sulfoximine, another GCL inhibitor. A cellular uptake experiment revealed that BSO accumulation in 293/B5-11 and 293/mb5-8 cells was similar to that in 293/mock cells, suggesting that BSO is not an ABCB5 substrate. The cellular glutathione content in 293/B5-11 and 293/mb5-8 cells was significantly higher than that in 293/mock cells. Evaluation of the BSO effect on the cellular glutathione content showed that compared with 293/mock cells the BSO concentration required for a 50% reduction in glutathione content in 293/B5-11 and 293/mb5-8 cells was approximately 2- to 3-fold higher. This result suggests that the BSO resistance of the ABCB5- and Abcb5-transfected cells can be attributed to the reduced effect of BSO on the transfectants. Cellular and vesicular transport assays showed that the transport of radiolabeled glutathione in 293/B5-11 cells was similar to that in 293/mock cells. The mRNA expression of genes encoding glutathione-metabolizing enzymes in 293/B5-11 cells was similar to that in 293/mock cells. The cellular content of Glu, a precursor of glutathione, in 293/B5-11 and 293/mb5-8 cells was higher than that in 293/mock cells. Conclusions:ABCB5/Abcb5-transfected cells showed resistance to BSO, which is not a substrate of ABCB5. Our results suggest that ABCB5/Abcb5 upregulates cellular glutathione levels to protect cells from various poisons.
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