Multidrug resistance (MDR) is a major hurdle in the treatment of cancer. Research indicated that the main mechanisms of most cancers included so-called “pump” (P-glycoprotein, P-gp) and “non-pump” (apoptosis) resistance. Identification of novel signaling molecules associated with both P-gp and apoptosis will facilitate the development of more effective strategies to overcome MDR in tumor cells. Since the proto-oncogene c-fos has been implicated in cell adaptation to environmental changes, we analyzed its role in mediating “pump” and “non-pump” resistance in MCF-7/ADR, an adriamycin (ADR)-selected human breast cancer cell line with the MDR phenotype. Elevated expression of c-fos in MCF-7/ADR cells and induction of c-fos by ADR in the parental drug-sensitive MCF-7 cells suggested a link between c-fos and MDR phenotype. Down-regulation of c-fos expression via shRNA resulted in sensitization of MCF-7/ADR cells to chemotherapeutic agents, including both P-gp and non-P-gp substrates. Further results proved that c-fos down-regulation in MCF-7/ADR cells resulted in decreased P-gp expression and activity, enhanced apoptosis, and altered expression of apoptosis-associated proteins (i.e., Bax, Bcl-2, p53, and PUMA). All above facts indicate that c-fos is involved in both P-gp- and anti-apoptosis-mediated MDR of MCF-7/ADR cells. Based on these results, we propose that c-fos may represent a potential molecular target for resistant cancer therapy, and suppressing c-fos gene expression may therefore be an effective means to temper breast cancer cell's MDR to cytotoxic chemotherapy. J. Cell. Biochem. 114: 1890–1900, 2013. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
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