Resistance to chemotherapeutic agents in neoplastic cells is often mediated by expression of P-glycoprotein, which functions as a drug-efflux pump for a broad range of substrates. We have used a combination of patch clamp and video-imaging techniques to examine the expression and drug-efflux function of P-glycoprotein and to determine the possible correlation with swelling-activated chloride channels in drug-sensitive and -resistant cell lines. Two pairs of cell lines were used in these experiments: (a) control NIH-3T3 cells and a corresponding MDR1-transfectant; and (b) control 8226 myeloma cells and a derivative cell line selected for resistance to chemotherapeutic agents. Control cells lacked detectable P-glycoprotein expression based on Western blotting, immunofluorescence staining with a specific monoclonal antibody, and a functional assay of rhodamine-123 (R123) efflux. Resistant cells expressed P-glycoprotein at high levels and rapidly exported R123. During whole-cell recording using either hyperosmotic pipette solution or hypoosmotic Ringer solution, cell swelling was accompanied by Cl- channel opening in all four cell lines. The rates of induction, biophysical properties and magnitudes of Cl conductance (gCl) were indistinguishable between control and corresponding multidrug-resistant cells: gCl reached 0.96 +/- 0.31 (n = 14) and 0.83 +/- 0.31 nS/pF (mean +/- SD; n = 31) in NIH-3T3 and NIH-3T3/MDR cells, respectively; and 0.31 +/- 0.20 (n = 9) and 0.37 +/- 0.22 nS/pF (n = 7) in 8226 and 8226/Dox40 cells, respectively. gCl exhibited moderate outward rectification in symmetrical Cl- solutions, with a rectification ratio of 1.4 at +/- 50 mV. Cl- channels slowly closed during strong depolarization beyond +60 mV. Using video-imaging techniques with SPQ as a fluorescent probe, we monitored Cl(-)-channel opening in intact drug-sensitive and -resistant cells. gCl, measured either with whole-cell recording or SPQ imaging, was blocked by DIDS (voltage-dependent Kd < 50 microM at +40 mV), NPPB (Kd approximately 30 microM), and tamoxifen (complete and irreversible block approximately 10 microM). None of these blockers inhibited R123 efflux. NPPB accelerated R123 efflux, an effect that was mimicked by CCP, a mitochondrial uncoupler. In contrast, verapamil selectively blocked R123 efflux (Kd = 0.3 to 0.5 microM); 10 microM left gCl unaltered. Induction of gCl was not affected by vincristine or doxorubicin in the pipette solution. Moreover, the rate of R123 efflux did not change during cell swelling. We conclude that P-glycoprotein and swelling-activated chloride channels function independently and are separable by expression and by pharmacological sensitivities.

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