P-glycoprotein activity and biological response

W. Vaalburg, N. H. Hendrikse, P. H. Elsinga, J. Bart, A. Van Waarde

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P-glycoprotein (P-gp) is a transmembrane drug efflux pump encoded by the MDR-1 gene in humans. Most likely P-gp protects organs against endogenous and exogenous toxins by extruding toxic compounds such as chemotherapeutics and other drugs. Many drugs are substrates for P-gp. Since P-gp is also expressed in the blood-brain barrier, P-gp substrates reach lower concentrations in the brain than in P-gp-negative tissues. Failure of response to chemotherapy of malignancies can be due to intrinsic or acquired drug resistance. Many tumors are multidrug resistant (MDR); resistant to several structurally unrelated chemotherapeutic agents. Several mechanisms are involved in MDR of which P-gp is studied most extensively. P-gp extrudes drugs out of tumor cells resulting in decreased intracellular drug concentrations, leading to the MDR phenotype. Furthermore, the MDR-1 gene exhibits several single nucleotide polymorphisms, some of which result in different transport capabilities. P-gp functionality and the effect of P-gp modulation on the pharmacokinetics of novel and established drugs can be studied in vivo by positron emission tomography (PET) using carbon-11 and fluorine-18-labeled P-gp substrates and modulators. PET may demonstrate the consequences of genetic differences on tissue pharmacokinetics. Inhibitors such as calcium-channel blockers (verapamil), cyclosporin A, ONT-093, and XR9576 can modulate the P-gp functionality. With PET the effect of P-gp modulation on the bioavailability of drugs can be investigated in humans in vivo. PET also allows the measurement of the efficacy of newly developed P-gp modulators.

Original languageEnglish
JournalToxicology and Applied Pharmacology
Issue number2 SUPPL.
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2005


  • Biological response
  • Drugs
  • P-glycoprotein
  • Positron emission tomography

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