The importance of drug-transporting P-glycoproteins in toxicology.


The importance of specific transport in toxicology is becoming increasingly clear and the work on P-glycoprotein has certainly been a major contribution to these growing insights. P-Glycoproteins were discovered by their ability to confer multidrug resistance in mammalian tumour cells. They are localised in the cell membrane where they actively extrude a wide range of compounds including many anti-cancer drugs from the cell. Besides in tumour cells, drug-transporting P-glycoproteins are also expressed in a polarised fashion in normal tissues that perform an excretory or barrier function, such as the liver, kidneys, intestines, brain endothelial cells. Based on this expression profile, it has been proposed that P-glycoproteins are important in protecting the host by reducing exposure to xenobiotics. Further studies with P-glycoprotein knockout mice have clearly established this protective function. In general, the clearance of substrate drugs is lower in knockout mice due to a diminished hepatobiliary excretion, direct intestinal excretion and/or increased enterohepatic cycling. Moreover, their uptake in sanctuary sites, such as the brain or the foetus, was profoundly higher in P-glycoprotein knockout mice, as was the uptake of drugs from the gastro-intestinal tract into the systemic circulation following oral ingestion. These results clearly highlight the impact that transport proteins can play in toxicology.

More about this publication

Toxicology letters
  • Volume 120
  • Issue nr. 1-3
  • Pages 31-41
  • Publication date 31-03-2001

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