Hypercholesterolemia is one of the risk factors for poor outcome in breast cancer therapy. To elucidate the influence of the main circulating oxysterols, cholesterol oxidation products, on the cell-killing effect of doxorubicin, cells were exposed to oxysterols at a subtoxic concentration. When cells were exposed to oxysterols in fetal bovine serumsupplemented medium, 7-ketocholesterol (7-KC), but not 27-hydroxycholesterol (27- HC), decreased the cytotoxicity of doxorubicin in MCF-7 (high estrogen receptor (ER) α/ERβ ratio) cells and the decreased cytotoxicity was restored by the P-glycoprotein inhibitor verapamil. 7-KC stimulated the efflux function of P-glycoprotein and reduced intracellular doxorubicin accumulation in MCF-7 but not in ERα(-) MDA-MB-231 and the resistant MCF-7/ADR cells. In MCF-7 cells, 7-KC increased the mRNA and protein levels of P-glycoprotein. The 7-KC-suppressed doxorubicin accumulation was restored by the fluvestrant and ERα knockdown. In a yeast reporter assay, the ERα activation by 7-KC was more potent than 27-HC. 7-KC, but not 27-HC, stimulated the expression of an ER target, Trefoil factor 1 in MCF-7 cells. When charcoal-stripped fetal bovine serum was used, both 7-KC and 27-HC induced Trefoil factor 1 expression and reduced doxorubicin accumulation in MCF-7 cells. 7-KC-reduced doxorubicin accumulation could be reversed by inhibitors of phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase, Akt, and mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR). These findings demonstrate that 7-KC decreases the cytotoxicity of doxorubicin through the up-regulation of P-glycoprotein in an ERα- and mTOR-dependent pathway. The 7-KC- and 27-HC-elicited estrogenic effects are crucial in the P-glycoprotein induction in breast cancer cells.
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