Methotrexate transport in variant human CCRF-CEM leukemia cells with elevated levels of the reduced folate carrier. Selective effect on carrier-mediated transport of physiological concentrations of reduced folates

G Jansen, G R Westerhof, M J Jarmuszewski, I Kathmann, G Rijksen, J H Schornagel

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This study reports the isolation and characterization of a variant of the human CCRF-CEM leukemia cell line that overproduces the carrier protein responsible for the uptake of reduced folates and the folate analogue methotrexate. The variant was obtained by adapting CCRF-CEM cells for prolonged times to stepwise decreasing concentrations of 5-formyltetrahydrofolate as the sole folate source in the cell culture medium. From cells that were grown on less than 1 nM 5-formyl-tetrahydrofolate, a variant (CEM-7A) was isolated exhibiting a 95-fold increased Vmax for [3H]methotrexate influx compared to parental CCRF-CEM cells. The values for influx Km, efflux t0.5, and Ki for inhibition by other folate (analogue) compounds were unchanged. Affinity labeling of the carrier with an N-hydroxysuccinimide ester of [3H]methotrexate demonstrate an approximately 30-fold increased incorporation of [3H] methotrexate in CEM-7A cells. This suggests that the up-regulation of [3H]methotrexate influx is not only due to an increased amount of carrier protein, but also to an increased rate of carrier translocation or an improved cooperativity between carrier protein molecules. Incubation for 1 h at 37 degrees C of CEM-7A cells with a concentration of 5-formyltetrahydrofolate or 5-methyltetrahydrofolate in the physiological range (25 nM) resulted in a 7-fold decline in [3H]methotrexate influx. This down-regulation during incubations with 5-formyltetrahydrofolate or 5-methyltetrahydrofolate could be prevented by either the addition of 10-25 nM of the lipophilic antifolate trimetrexate or by preincubating CEM-7A cells with 25 nM methotrexate. The down-regulatory effect was specifically induced by reduced folates since incubation of CEM-7A cells with 25 nM of either methotrexate, 10-ethyl-10-deazaaminopterin, aminopterin, or folic acid, or a mixture of purines and thymidine, had no effect on [3H]methotrexate influx. Similarly, these down-regulatory effects on [3H]methotrexate transport by 5-formyltetrahydrofolate, and its reversal by trimetrexate or methotrexate, were also observed, though to a lower extent, for parental CCRF-CEM cells grown in folate-depleted medium rather than in standard medium containing high folate concentrations. These results indicate that mediation of reduced folate/methotrexate transport can occur at reduced folate concentrations in the physiological range, and suggest that the intracellular folate content may be a critical determinant in the regulation of methotrexate transport.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)18272-7
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number30
Publication statusPublished - 25 Oct 1990


  • Biological Transport
  • Carrier Proteins/metabolism
  • Cell Division/drug effects
  • Folic Acid Antagonists/pharmacology
  • Folic Acid/metabolism
  • Formyltetrahydrofolates/metabolism
  • Humans
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Kinetics
  • Methotrexate/metabolism
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured

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