Drug Resist Updat. 2021 Jun 2;57:100769. doi: 10.1016/j.drup.2021.100769. Online ahead of print.
Multidrug resistance (MDR) remains a major obstacle towards curative treatment of cancer. Despite considerable progress in delineating the basis of intrinsic and acquired MDR, the underlying molecular mechanisms remain to be elucidated. Emerging evidences suggest that dysregulation in endolysosomal compartments is involved in mediating MDR through multiple mechanisms, such as alterations in endosomes, lysosomes and autophagosomes, that traffic and biodegrade the molecular cargo through macropinocytosis, autophagy and endocytosis. For example, altered lysosomal pH, in combination with transcription factor EB (TFEB)-mediated lysosomal biogenesis, increases the sequestration of hydrophobic anti-cancer drugs that are weak bases, thereby producing an insufficient and off-target accumulation of anti-cancer drugs in MDR cancer cells. Thus, the use of well-tolerated, alkalinizing compounds that selectively block Vacuolar H⁺-ATPase (V-ATPase) may be an important strategy to overcome MDR in cancer cells and increase chemotherapeutic efficacy. Other mechanisms of endolysosomal-mediated drug resistance include increases in the expression of lysosomal proteases and cathepsins that are involved in mediating carcinogenesis and chemoresistance. Therefore, blocking the trafficking and maturation of lysosomal proteases or direct inhibition of cathepsin activity in the cytosol may represent novel therapeutic modalities to overcome MDR. Furthermore, endolysosomal compartments involved in catabolic pathways, such as macropinocytosis and autophagy, are also shown to be involved in the development of MDR. Here, we review the role of endolysosomal trafficking in MDR development and discuss how targeting endolysosomal pathways could emerge as a new therapeutic strategy to overcome chemoresistance in cancer.