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Multidrug resistance (MDR) is characterized by a decrease in the efficiency of chemotherapeutic agents correlated with the expression and activity of a membrane protein: the permeability-glycoprotein (Pgp 170). Clinically, detection of MDR can be performed by functional tests based on the accumulation of fluorescent compounds such as rhodamine 123. With the aim of improving the sensitivity of such analysis, we have evaluated JC-1, a fluorescent lipophilic carbocyanine dye</a>. Above a critical concentration, JC-1 aggregates in a 'liquid crystal' form. Aggregates display a specific red emission band centered at 597 nm whereas the monomers display a green emission band centered at 540 nm. JC-1 was avidly accumulated in sensitive K562 cells where it displayed both a green cytoplasmic and red mitochondrial fluorescence. In contrast, JC-1 was poorly accumulated in resistant K562 cells, which displayed only a slight green fluorescence. The level of JC-1 accumulation was correlated with the level of Pgp expression detected by MRK16 and UIC2 antibodies on a set of K562 subclones with increasing resistance levels. The specific fluorescence properties of JC-1 allow accurate discrimination between low-level resistant cells and sensitive cells. Chemosensitizers such as verapamil, cyclosporine A or S9788 restored JC-1 accumulation in resistant cells. The fluorescence properties of JC-1 could therefore be used for monitoring the effects of reversing agents.


J M Kühnel, J Y Perrot, A M Faussat, J P Marie, M A Schwaller. Functional assay of multidrug resistant cells using JC-1, a carbocyanine fluorescent probe. Leukemia. 1997 Jul;11(7):1147-55

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PMID: 9205004

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