Targeting glucosylceramide synthase induction of cell surface globotriaosylceramide (Gb3) in acquired cisplatin-resistance of lung Cancer and malignant pleural mesothelioma cells

Experimental Cell Research 2015 May 21 [Epub ahead of print] [Link]

Tyler A, Johansson A, Karlsson T, Kumar Gudey S, Brännström T, Grankvist K, Behnam-Motlagh P.



Acquired resistance to cisplatin treatment is a caveat when treating patients with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM). Ceramide increases in response to chemotherapy, leading to proliferation arrest and apoptosis. However, a tumour stress activation of glucosylceramide synthase (GCS) follows to eliminate ceramide by formation of glycosphingolipids (GSLs) such as globotriaosylceramide (Gb3), the functional receptor of verotoxin-1. Ceramide elimination enhances cell proliferation and apoptosis blockade, thus stimulating tumor progression. GSLs transactivate multidrug resistance 1/P-glycoprotein (MDR1) and multidrug resistance-associated protein 1 (MRP1) expression which further prevents ceramide accumulation and stimulates drug efflux. We investigated the expression of Gb3, MDR1 and MRP1 in NSCLC and MPM cells with acquired cisplatin resistance, and if GCS activity or MDR1 pump inhibitors would reduce their expression and reverse cisplatin-resistance.


Cell surface expression of Gb3, MDR1 and MRP1 and intracellular expression of MDR1 and MRP1 was analysed by flow cytometry and confocal microscopy on P31 MPM and H1299 NSCLC cells and subline cells with acquired cisplatin resistance. The effect of GCS inhibitor PPMP and MDR1 pump inhibitor cyclosporin A for 72h on expression and cisplatin cytotoxicity was tested.


The cisplatin-resistant cells expressed increased cell surface Gb3. Cell surface Gb3 expression of resistant cells was annihilated by PPMP whereas cyclosporin A decreased Gb3 and MDR1 expression in H1299 cells. No decrease of MDR1 by PPMP was noted in using flow cytometry, whereas a decrease of MDR1 in H1299 and H1299res was indicated with confocal microscopy. No certain co-localization of Gb3 and MDR1 was noted. PPMP, but not cyclosporin A, potentiated cisplatin cytotoxicity in all cells.


Cell surface Gb3 expression is a likely tumour biomarker for acquired cisplatin resistance of NSCLC and MPM cells. Tumour cell resistance to MDR1 inhibitors of cell surface MDR1 and Gb3 could explain the aggressiveness of NSCLC and MPM. Therapy with GCS activity inhibitors or toxin targeting of the Gb3 receptor may substantially reduce acquired cisplatin drug resistance of NSCLC and MPM cells.