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Cell Mol Neurobiol. 2000 Apr;20(2):165-81.

Brain microvascular P-glycoprotein and a revised model of multidrug resistance in brain.

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  • 1Department of Medicine, UCLA School of Medicine 90095-1682, USA.


1. P-Glycoprotein is a 170-kDa transmembrane glycoprotein active efflux system that confers multidrug resistance in tumors, as well as normal tissues including brain. 2. The classical model of multidrug resistance in brain places the expression of P-glycoprotein at the luminal membrane of the brain microvascular endothelial cell. However, recent studies have been performed with human brain microvessels and double-labeling confocal microscopy using (a) the MRK16 antibody to human P-glycoprotein, (b) an antiserum to glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP), an astrocyte foot process marker, or (c) an antiserum to the GLUT1 glucose transporter, a brain endothelial plasma membrane marker. These results provide evidence for a revised model of P-glycoprotein function at the brain microvasculature. In human brain capillaries, there is colocalization of immunoreactive P-glycoprotein with astrocytic GFAP but not with endothelial GLUT1 glucose transporter. 3. In the revised model of multidrug resistance in brain, P-glycoprotein is hypothesized to function at the plasma membrane of astrocyte foot processes. These astrocyte foot processes invest the brain microvascular endothelium but are located behind the blood-brain barrier in vivo, which is formed by the brain capillary endothelial plasma membrane. 4. In the classical model, an inhibition of endothelial P-glycoprotein would result in both an increase in the blood-brain barrier permeability to a given drug substrate of P-glycoprotein and an increase in the brain volume of distribution (VD) of the drug. However, in the revised model of P-glycoprotein function in brain, which positions this protein transporter at the astrocyte foot process, an inhibition of P-glycoprotein would result in no increase in blood-brain barrier permeability, per se, but only an increase in the VD in brain of P-glycoprotein substrates.

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