Tumor Biology

, Volume 37, Issue 1, pp 425–435 | Cite as

E-cadherin increasing multidrug resistance protein 1 via hypoxia-inducible factor-1α contributes to multicellular resistance in colorectal cancer

  • Xi Liang
  • Xueqing Xu
  • Fengchao Wang
  • Ni Li
  • Jianming He
Original Article


When cancer cells have been cultured as three-dimensional (3D) cultures or in vivo, they decrease sensitivity to anticancer drugs. This is called multicellular resistance, and the mechanism is not fully understood. Here, we report that E-cadherin increasing multidrug resistance protein 1 (MDR1) via hypoxia-inducible factor-1α (HIF-1α) contributes to multicellular resistance in colorectal cancer. The MDR1 protein level was higher in 3D cultures than in monolayer cells. When dispersed cells from 3D cultures were grown as monolayer cells again, the MDR1 protein level decreased to the similar level of cells maintained as monolayer all through. Knockdown of MDR1 significantly decreased multicellular resistance. Knockdown of E-cadherin decreased MDR1 in 3D cultures but did not detectably change MDR1 in monolayer cells. E-cadherin was expressed uniformly in 3D cultures while the MDR1 protein level was higher in the center of 3D cultures than in the peripheral part. Knockdown of E-cadherin decreased E-cadherin uniformly in 3D cultures but mainly decreased MDR1 at the center of 3D cultures. These suggest that knockdown of E-cadherin decreasing MDR1 may be by an indirect mechanism. HIF-1α was remarkably increased in 3D cultures. Knockdown of E-cadherin decreased intercellular junctions, increased intercellular space, and decreased HIF-1α in 3D cultures. Knockdown of HIF-1α decreased MDR1 in 3D cultures. Knockdown of E-cadherin increased β-catenin uniformly in 3D cultures, and knockdown of β-catenin decreased MDR1 what was opposite to knockdown of E-cadherin decreasing MDR1. Our data reveal that knockdown of E-cadherin decreasing MDR1 via HIF-1α is involved in the mechanism of multicellular resistance in colorectal cancer. Though β-catenin is also involved in the mechanism, it does not play a dominant role.


Colorectal cancer Multicellular resistance E-cadherin Multidrug resistance protein 1 Hypoxia-inducible factor-1α β-catenin 



This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (grant no. 81000990), the Natural Science Foundation Project of CQ CSTC (grant no. 2009BB5339), and the Science Foundation of Third Military Medical University for the Young Scholar (grant no. 2009XQN32).

Conflicts of interest



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Copyright information

© International Society of Oncology and BioMarkers (ISOBM) 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Xi Liang
    • 1
    • 2
  • Xueqing Xu
    • 2
  • Fengchao Wang
    • 3
  • Ni Li
    • 1
  • Jianming He
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Oncology and Southwest Cancer Center, Southwest HospitalThird Military Medical UniversityChongqingChina
  2. 2.Molecular Biology Center, State Key Laboratory of Trauma, Burn, and Combined Injury, Daping HospitalThird Military Medical UniversityChongqingChina
  3. 3.Institute of Combined Injury, State Key Laboratory of Trauma, Burns and Combined InjuryThird Military Medical UniversityChongqingChina

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