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Cancer Res. 2001 Apr 15;61(8):3458-64.

Subcellular localization and distribution of the breast cancer resistance protein transporter in normal human tissues.

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  • 1Division of Experimental Therapy, The Netherlands Cancer Institute, Plesmanlaan 121, 1066 CX Amsterdam, the Netherlands.


High expression of the Breast Cancer Resistance Protein (BCRP) gene has been shown to be involved in resistance to chemotherapeutic drugs. Knowledge of the localization of BCRP protein in normal tissues may help unravel the normal function of this protein. Therefore, we characterized the tissue distribution and cellular localization of BCRP in frozen sections of normal human tissues. For this purpose, we used the recently described monoclonal antibody BXP-34 and another independently developed monoclonal antibody directed against BCRP, BXP-21. Both monoclonal antibodies show specific BCRP plasma membrane staining on cytospins obtained from topotecan- or mitoxantrone-selected cell lines, as well as from BCRP-transfected cell lines. Immunoprecipitation experiments using either BXP-21 or BXP-34 yielded a clear M(r) 72,000 BCRP band from BCRP-overexpressing tumor cells. In the topotecan-selected T8 and mitoxantrone-selected MX3 tumor cell lines, BCRP turned out to be differentially glycosylated. In contrast to BXP-34, BXP-21 is able to detect the M(r) 72,000 BCRP protein on immunoblots and is reactive with BCRP in formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded tissues. Using BXP-21 and BXP-34, prominent staining of BCRP was observed in placental syncytiotrophoblasts, in the epithelium of the small intestine and colon, in the liver canalicular membrane, and in ducts and lobules of the breast. Furthermore, BCRP was present in veinous and capillary endothelium, but not in arterial endothelium in all of the tissues investigated. In the tissues studied, the mRNA levels of BCRP were assessed using reverse transcription-PCR, and these corresponded with the levels of BCRP protein estimated from immunohistochemical staining. The presence of BCRP at the placental syncytiotrophoblasts is consistent with the hypothesis of a protective role of BCRP for the fetus. The apical localization in the epithelium of the small intestine and colon indicates a possible role of BCRP in the regulation of the uptake of p.o. administered BCRP substrates by back-transport of substrate drugs entering from the gut lumen. Therefore, it may be useful to attempt to modulate the uptake of p.o. delivered BCRP substrates, e.g., topotecan or irinotecan, by using a BCRP inhibitor. Clinical trials testing this hypothesis have been initiated in our institute.

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