Amplification of the H region has been previously observed in methotrexate (MTX)-resistant strains of Leishmania major and in unselected laboratory stocks of L. tarentolae. We now show that selection of L. major with the structurally unrelated drugs primaquine or terbinafine generated resistant lines exhibiting H region amplification and 23- and 12-fold cross-resistance to MTX, respectively. These and other drug-resistant lines bearing H region amplification also exhibited weak cross-resistance to primaquine and terbinafine, associating the amplified H region with pleiotropic resistance to MTX and other drugs. In contrast, lines selected for chloroquine or pentamidine resistance did not show H region amplification or this pattern of drug cross-resistance. The primaquine- and terbinafine-selected lines exhibited wild-type levels of dihydrofolate reductase-thymidylate synthase and normal uptake and accumulation of MTX, and the MTX resistance of these lines was not reversed by verapamil. These data suggest that the mechanism of MTX cross-resistance associated with H region amplification is novel and distinct for that mediated by overexpression of MDR genes in multidrug-resistant mammalian cells. Structural studies indicated that the amplified H region DNA in these L. major lines was largely (possibly exclusively) extra-chromosomal and consisted of circular inverted repeats joined at two DNA rearrangement junctions. Southern blot analyses showed that these rearrangement junctions were identical in four independent cell lines, suggesting that these sites are 'hotspots' for DNA rearrangement. H region amplification in all of these lines was conservative, defined as retention of the chromosomal H region locus without structural alteration or reduction in copy number. This finding is consistent with an over-replication/recombination model for amplification of the H region.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)15094-15103
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number25
StatePublished - 1989


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