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The multidrug resistance (mdr) genes encode P-glycoproteins, integral membrane proteins which function as drug efflux transporters. Exposure of animals in vivo and cells in vitro to a variety of xenobiotics leads to increased mdr1 gene expression and higher levels of P-glycoprotein. This response may protect cells from the cytotoxic effects of these compounds. In this investigation we functionally expressed the rat mdr1b gene in NIH 3T3 cells and assessed the ability of the encoded P-glycoprotein to protect these cells from the cytotoxicity of xenobiotics known to induce mdr1b expression. In long-term colony survival assays, stably expressed mdr1b conferred resistance to cytotoxic drugs such as colchicine, vinblastine and doxorubicin, but not to 5-fluorouracil nor to the carcinogens aflatoxin B1 and N-hydroxy-acetylaminofluorene. The mdr reversal agent verapamil restored cytotoxicity of colchicine, doxorubicin, actinomycin D, vinblastine and taxol, but had no effect on the sensitivity of these cells to 5-fluorouracil, aflatoxin B1 or N-hydroxy-acetylaminofluorene. In a competitive transport assay, verapamil and, to a lesser extent, colchicine blocked the increased efflux of the fluorescent dye rhodamine 123 from mdr1b-transfected cells, whereas aflatoxin B1 did not compete for this export. These data demonstrate that expression of the rat mdr1b encoded P-glycoprotein can protect cells from a diverse group of compounds previously identified to be mdr substrates, however, other effective inducers of mdr expression, such as aflatoxin B1 and N-hydroxy-acetylaminofluorene, remain potent cytotoxins despite high levels of P-glycoprotein. The fact that compounds which are not themselves substrates can induce P-glycoprotein expression may have implications for pharmacokinetic interactions and chemotherapy.


E Santoni-Rugiu, J A Silverman. Functional characterization of the rat mdr1b encoded P-glycoprotein: not all inducing agents are substrates. Carcinogenesis. 1997 Nov;18(11):2255-63

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PMID: 9395229

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