Imatinib is a first generation tyrosine kinase inhibitor, which is used for the treatment of chronic myeloid leukemia. However, resistance to imatinib is an important problem. Different mechanisms have been explained for imatinib resistance. In this study, we examined the roles of macromolecules in imatinib resistance in K562 cells at the molecular level using Fourier Transform Infrared (FT-IR) spectroscopy. An amount of 3 mu M imatinib resistant cells were generated by our group and named as K562/IMA-3 cells. Changes in macromolecules in parental and resistant cells were studied by FT-IR spectroscopy. Imatinib resistance caused changes, which indicated decreases in the level of glycogen and increases in the membrane order. The amount of unsaturated lipids increased in the imatinib resistant cells indicating lipid peroxidation. Imatinib resistance caused changes in the lipid/protein ratio. The relative protein content increased with respect to nucleic acids indicating higher transcription and protein expression and structural/organizational changes in the nucleus were evident as revealed by frequency changes in the nucleic acid bands. Changes in the amide bands revealed changes in the proteome of the resistant cells. Protein secondary structural changes indicated that the antiparallel beta sheet's structure increased, however the alpha helix structure, beta sheet structure, random coil structure and turns decreased in the resistant cells. These results indicate that the FT-IR technique provides a suitable method for analyzing drug resistance related structural changes in leukemia and other cancer types. (C) 2013 Elsevier Masson SAS. All rights reserved.