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Curr Pharm Des. 2000 Feb;6(3):241-60.

What is the precise role of human MDR 1 protein in chemotherapeutic drug resistance?

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Department of Chemistry and Program in Tumor Biology, Lombardi Cancer Center, Georgetown University, Washington, DC 20057, USA.


Elucidating the molecular function of hu MDR 1 protein (also called P-glycoprotein or P-gp 1) and the precise role this protein plays in clinically relevant tumor drug resistance remains a perplexing problem. Hundreds of reports over the past decades summarize a dizzying array of observations relevant to hu MDR 1 protein function. A dominant model in the MDR literature that is used to explain many observations is the well known "drug pump" model first suggested by Keld Dano in 1973 [1]. Although this model has proved useful in conceptualizing additional experiments, it violates fundamental laws of biology and chemistry and in well over a decade of intense effort, active outward drug pumping via hu MDR 1 protein has still never been unequivocally measured. Also, in recent years it has become clear that the drug pump model cannot explain several important phenomena that are highly relevant to the cancer clinic. Thus, other models have also proved increasingly popular. One is the altered partitioning model, which does not violate fundamental laws, is consistent with the vast majority of available data, and has important predictive ability. This newer model has several novel facets that are relevant for cancer pharmacology, and that help explain phenomena not explained by the drug pump model. The basic principle of this model is that MDR proteins do not directly transport drugs, but that their altered expression leads to altered regulation of ion transport or signal transduction that is critical for setting key biophysical parameters of the cell (e.g. compartmental pH and membrane potentials) that dictate relative passive diffusion of drugs as well as important signal transduction linked to the cytotoxic actions of these drugs. Along with debate over the molecular details of hu MDR 1 function, additional controversy surrounds the precise role of hu MDR 1 in the clinic. Many investigators now debate the significance of its function (regardless of precise mechanism) with regard to "real" drug resistance phenotypes exhibited in the clinic. I believe that thorough debate on the pros and cons of various molecular models for hu MDR 1 function will help to address confusion over the clinical relevance of hu MDR1. In the current atmosphere of disappointment over the relative success of clinical trials based in large part on the logic of the drug pump model, it is important that we not lose sight of critical points. Namely, hu MDR 1 protein remains an extremely important window in on the complex pathways that lead to induced chemotherapeutic drug resistance. Exploring the rationale behind newer models for hu MDR 1 function leads to key predictions that can be tested.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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