Cytotoxicity of methotrexate and trimetrexate and its reversal by folinic acid in human leukemic CCRF-CEM cells with carrier-mediated and receptor-mediated folate uptake

L J van der Veer, G R Westerhof, G Rijksen, J H Schornagel, G Jansen

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The cytotoxic effects of the antifolates methotrexate (MTX) and trimetrexate (TMQ) were investigated for two human leukemic CCRF-CEM cell lines, one expressing the "classical" reduced folate/MTX carrier (CEM-RF), another lacking this carrier but expressing a membrane associated folate binding protein (CEM-FBP). CEM-FBP cells were found to be highly resistant to MTX compared to CEM-RF cells, especially in short exposures. For example, after 4 h incubation, IC50 values for MTX were 251 microM and 0.98 microM for CEM-FBP and CEM-RF cells, respectively. On the other hand, CEM-FBP cells were much more sensitive to the lipophilic antifolate TMQ than CEM-RF cells as shown by IC50 values (after 4 h of exposure) of 0.059 microM and 7.5 microM, respectively. Finally, the reversal of TMQ cytotoxicity by folinic acid was significantly impaired for CEM-FBP cells, in contrast to CEM-RF cells. These results indicate that the nature of the membrane transport system for folates can be a critical determinant in tumor cell sensitivity or resistance to antifolates.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)981-7
Number of pages7
JournalLeukemia research
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 1989


  • Biological Transport
  • Carrier Proteins/metabolism
  • Folate Receptors, GPI-Anchored
  • Folic Acid/metabolism
  • Humans
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Leucovorin/pharmacology
  • Leukemia/drug therapy
  • Methotrexate/metabolism
  • Quinazolines/metabolism
  • Receptors, Cell Surface
  • Trimetrexate
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured

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