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Pharmacokinetic drug resistance is a serious obstacle that emerges during cancer chemotherapy. In this study, we investigated the possible role of aldo-keto reductase 1C3 (AKR1C3) in the resistance of cancer cells to anthracyclines. First, the reducing activity of AKR1C3 toward anthracyclines was tested using incubations with a purified recombinant enzyme. Furthermore, the intracellular reduction of daunorubicin and idarubicin was examined by employing the transfection of A549, HeLa, MCF7 and HCT 116 cancer cells with an AKR1C3 encoding vector. To investigate the participation of AKR1C3 in anthracycline resistance, we conducted MTT cytotoxicity assays with these cells, and observed that AKR1C3 significantly contributes to the resistance of cancer cells to daunorubicin and idarubicin, whereas this resistance was reversible by the simultaneous administration of 2′-hydroxyflavanone, a specific AKR1C3 inhibitor. In the final part of our work, we tracked the changes in AKR1C3 expression after anthracycline exposure. Interestingly, a reciprocal correlation between the extent of induction and endogenous levels of AKR1C3 was recorded in particular cell lines. Therefore, we suggest that the induction of AKR1C3 following exposure to daunorubicin and idarubicin, which seems to be dependent on endogenous AKR1C3 expression, eventually might potentiate an intrinsic resistance given by the normal expression of AKR1C3. In conclusion, our data suggest a substantial impact of AKR1C3 on the metabolism of daunorubicin and idarubicin, which affects their pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic behavior. In addition, we demonstrate that the reduction of daunorubicin and idarubicin, which is catalyzed by AKR1C3, contributes to the resistance of cancer cells to anthracycline treatment.Metabolism of anthracyclines by AKR1C3 was studied at enzyme and cellular levels.Anthracycline resistance mediated by AKR1C3 was demonstrated in cancer cells.Induction of AKR1C3 after anthracycline exposure was investigated in cancer cells.AKR1C3 confers resistance of cancer cells to daunorubicin and idarubicin.AKR1C3 can be induced by the exposure to anthracyclines in some cell lines.