Studies on the mechanism of resistance to rapamycin in human cancer cells

Hajime Hosoi, Michael B. Dilling, Linda N. Liu, Mary K. Danks, Takuma Shikata, Aleksander Sekulic, Robert T. Abraham, John C. Lawrence, Peter J. Houghton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

164 Scopus citations


Rapamycin is a potent cytostatic agent that arrests cells in the G1 phase of the cell cycle. The relationships between cellular sensitivity to rapamycin, drug accumulation, expression of mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR), and inhibition of growth factor activation of ribosomal p70S6 kinase (p70(S6k)) and dephosphorylation of pH acid stable protein I (eukaryotic initiation factor 4E binding protein) were examined. We show that some cell lines derived from childhood tumors are highly sensitive to growth inhibition by rapamycin, whereas others have high intrinsic resistance (>1000-fold). Accumulation and retention of [14C]rapamycin were similar in sensitive and resistant cells, with all cells examined demonstrating a stable tight binding component. Western analysis showed levels of mTOR were similar in each cell line (<2-fold variation). The activity of p70(S6k), activated downstream of mTOR, was similar in four cell lines (range, 11.75-41.8 pmol/2 x 106 cells/30 min), but activity was equally inhibited in cells that were highly resistant to rapamycin-induced growth arrest. Rapamycin equally inhibited serum-induced phosphorylation of pH acid stable protein I in Rh1 (intrinsically resistant) and sensitive Rh30 cells. In serum-fasted Rh30 and Rh1 cells, the addition of serum rapidly induced c-MYC (protein) levels. Rapamycin blocked induction in Rh30 cells but not in Rh1 cells. Serum-fasted Rh30/rapa10K cells, selected for high level acquired resistance to rapamycin, showed -10-fold increased c-MYC compared with Rh30. These results suggest that the ability of rapamycin to inhibit c-MYC induction correlates with intrinsic sensitivity, whereas failure of rapamycin to inhibit induction or overexpression of c-MYC correlates with intrinsic and acquired resistance, respectively.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)815-824
Number of pages10
JournalMolecular pharmacology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 1998

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Pharmacology


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