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Int J Antimicrob Agents. 2003 Sep;22(3):301-17.

ABC transporters and drug resistance in parasitic protozoa.

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  • 1Department of Pharmacology, University of Cambridge, Tennis Court Road, Cambridge CB2 1PD, UK.


Parasitic protozoa are responsible for a wide spectrum of diseases in humans and domestic animals. The main line of defence available against these organisms is chemotherapy. However, the application of chemotherapeutic drugs has resulted in the development of resistance mechanisms, which limit the number of antiprotozoal drugs that are effective in the treatment and control of parasitic diseases. Knowledge about the resistance mechanisms involved may allow the development of new drugs that minimise or circumvent drug resistance or may identify new targets for drug development. This review focuses on the role of protozoal ATP-binding cassette (ABC) transporters in drug resistance. These membrane proteins mediate the ATP-dependent transport of a wide variety of chemotherapeutic drugs away from their targets inside the parasites. The genome sequence of Plasmodium falciparum and Plasmodium yoelii has recently been completed, and the sequencing of other parasitic genomes are now underway. As a result, many new membrane transporters belonging to the ABC superfamily are being discovered. We review the ABC transporters in major parasitic protozoa, including Plasmodium, Leishmania, Trypanosoma and Entamoeba species. Transporters with an established role in drug resistance have been emphasised, but newly discovered transporters with a significant amino acid sequence identity to established ABC drug transporters have also been included.

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