Nitrogen mustard drug resistant B-cell chronic lymphocytic leukemia as an in vivo model for crosslinking agent resistance
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Acquired resistance is a limiting factor in chemotherapy. We have employed nitrogen mustard resistant B-cell chronic lymphocytic leukemia (B-CLL) as a clinically relevant model to study this phenomenon. Resistance in B-CLL is associated with enhanced repair of nitrogen mustard crosslinks. In order to identify the repair pathway responsible for nitrogen mustard resistance, lymphocytes were screened for cross-resistance to a variety of DNA damaging agents. The MTT assay was used to measure the resistance of B-CLL lymphocytes to various DNA damaging agents, including nitrogen mustards, UV light, methyl methanesulfonate, and mitomycin C. We have shown that B lymphocytes from patients with nitrogen mustard resistant chronic lymphocytic leukemia reflect their clinical status. This assay allows us to classify lymphocytes as nitrogen mustard sensitive or resistant, based on in vitro observations. The resistant population was 5.6 and 4.1 fold more resistant to the nitrogen mustard analogs, chlorambucil and melphalan, respectively. Resistant lymphocytes displayed no increased resistance to either methyl methanesulfonate or UV light, indicating that neither classical base nor nucleotide excision repair is rate-limiting in resistance. Resistant lymphocytes were 6.0 and 2.2 fold more resistant to mitomycin C and cis-diamminedichloroplatinum (II), respectively, suggesting enhanced crosslink repair. Neither glutathione nor glutathione S-transferase levels correlated with resistance. The development of nitrogen mustard drug resistance in B-CLL appears to be associated with cross-resistance to other bifunctional alkylating agents which produce interstrand crosslinks. Our results indicate that resistance to nitrogen mustards in chronic lymphocytic leukemia is associated with enhanced repair of DNA crosslinks which may involve a recombination dependent system. This model should prove very useful in the elucidation of the molecular mechanisms of crosslink repair.