Enhanced receptor-mediated endocytosis and cytotoxicity of a folic acid-desacetylvinblastine monohydrazide conjugate in a pemetrexed-resistant cell line lacking folate-specific facilitative carriers but with increased folate receptor expression

Rongbao Zhao, Ndeye Diop-Bove, I. David Goldman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

13 Scopus citations


The reduced folate carrier (RFC), proton-coupled folate transporter (PCFT), and folate receptors (FR) are folate-specific transporters. Antifolates currently in the clinic, such as pemetrexed, methotrexate, and pralatrexate, are transported into tumor cells primarily via RFC. Folic acid conjugated to cytotoxics, a new class of antineoplastics, are transported into cells via FR-mediated endocytosis. To better define the role of PCFT in antifolate resistance, a methotrexate-resistant cell line, M160-8, was selected from a HeLa subline in which the RFC gene was deleted and PCFT was highly overexpressed. These cells were cross-resistant to pemetrexed. PCFT function and the PCFT mRNA level in M160-8 cells were barely detectable, and FR-A function and mRNA level were increased as compared with the parent cells. While pemetrexed rapidly associated with FR and was internalized within endosomes in M160-8 cells, consistent with FR-mediated transport, subsequent pemetrexed and (6S)-5-formyltetrahydrofolate export into the cytosol was markedly impaired. In contrast, M160-8 cells were collaterally sensitive to EC0905, a folic acid- desacetylvinblastine monohydrazide conjugate also transported by FR-mediated endocytosis. However, in this case a sulfhydryl bond is cleaved to release the lipophilic cytotoxic moiety into the endosome, which passively diffuses out of the endosome into the cytosol. Hence, resistance to pemetrexed in M160-8 cells was due to entrapment of the drug within the endosome due to the absence of PCFT under conditions in which the FR cycling function was intact.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)310-321
Number of pages12
JournalMolecular Pharmacology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 1 2014


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Pharmacology

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