Multidrug resistance in Leishmania donovani is conferred by amplification of a gene homologous to the mammalian mdr1 gene

Debbie M. Henderson, C. David Sifri, Mark Rodgers, Dyann F. Wirth, Nancy Hendrickson, Buddy Ullman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

144 Scopus citations


Drug resistance is a major impediment to the effective treatment of parasitic diseases. The role of multidrug resistance (mdr) genes and their products in this drug resistance phenomenon, however, remains controversial. In order to determine whether mdr gene amplification and overexpression can be connected to a multidrug resistance phenotype in parasitic protozoa, a mutant strain of Leishmania donovani was generated by virtue of its ability to proliferate in medium containing increasing concentrations of vinblastine. The vinblastine-resistant strain, VINB1000, displayed a cross-resistance to puromycin and the anthracyclines, a growth phenotype that could be attributed to an impaired ability to accumulate the toxic drugs. By using the polymerase chain reaction, two different DNA fragments, LEMDR06 and LEMDRF2, were amplified from leishmanial genomic DNA, and each amplified fragment encoded a product that was significantly homologous to parts of the mammalian P-glycoprotein. In the VINB1000 strain, the mdr gene recognized by the LEMDR06 probe was amplified approximately 50-fold in copy number, whereas the mdr genes that hybridized to LEMDRF2 or to a fragment of the previously characterized ltpgpA gene were not amplified. Moreover, the VINB1000 cell line expressed a LEMDR06 gene transcript of 12.5 kb in size that was not detected in the parental wild-type strain. To furnish a functional test for mdr gene amplification and expression in L. donovani, the L. donovani gene recognized by the LEMDR06 polymerase chain reaction product, ldmdr1, was isolated from a genomic library, transfected into wild-type cells, and amplified over 500-fold by selection in 0.5 mg of G418 per ml. The resulting transfectants were resistant to all drugs to which VINB1000 cells were resistant and sensitive to all drugs to which VINB1000 cells were sensitive. These studies demonstrate that amplification of the ldmdr1 gene either by direct selection or subsequent to transfection can confer a drug-resistant phenotype in parasitic protozoa similar to that observed for MDR mammalian cells.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2855-2865
Number of pages11
JournalMolecular and cellular biology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1992
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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