Doxorubicin is an antineoplastic drug widely used in cancer treatment. However, many tumors are intrinsically resistant to the drug or show drug resistance after an initial period of response. Among the different molecules implicated with doxorubicin resistance are the heat shock proteins (Hsps). At present we do not know with certainty the mechanism(s) involved in such resistance. In the present study, to advance our knowledge on the relationship between Hsps and drug resistance, we have used peripheral blood mononuclear cells obtained from healthy nonsmoker donors to evaluate the capacity of a preliminary heat shock to elicit the Hsp response and to establish the protection against the deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) damage induced by doxorubicin. DNA damage and repair were determined using the alkaline comet assay. We also measured the expression of Hsp27, Hsp60, Hsp70, Hsp90, hMLH1, hMSH2, and proliferating cell nuclear antigen by immunocytochemistry. The damage induced by doxorubicin was more efficiently repaired when the cells were previously heat shocked followed by a resting period of 24 hours before drug exposure, as shown by (1) the increased number of undamaged cells (P < 0.05), (2) the increased DNA repair capacity (P < 0.05), and (3) the high expression of the mismatch repair (MMR) proteins hMLH1 and hMSH2 (P < 0.05). In addition, in the mentioned group of cells, we confirmed by Western blot high expression levels of Hsp27 and Hsp70. We also noted a nuclear translocation of Hsp27 and mainly of Hsp70. Furthermore, inducible Hsp70 was more expressed in the nucleus than Hsc70, showing a possible participation of Hsp70 in the DNA repair process mediated by the MMR system.
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