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Nucl Med Biol. 2013 Oct;40(7):873-8. doi: 10.1016/j.nucmedbio.2013.05.012. Epub 2013 Jul 8.

(R)-[(11)C]verapamil is selectively transported by murine and human P-glycoprotein at the blood-brain barrier, and not by MRP1 and BCRP.

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Department of Pharmacology, Toxicology and Pharmacy, University of Veterinary Medicine, and Center for Systems Neuroscience, Hannover, Germany; Department of Clinical Pharmacology, Medical University of Vienna, Austria.



Positron emission tomography (PET) with [(11)C]verapamil, either in racemic form or in form of the (R)-enantiomer, has been used to measure the functional activity of the adenosine triphosphate-binding cassette (ABC) transporter P-glycoprotein (Pgp) at the blood-brain barrier (BBB). There is some evidence in literature that verapamil inhibits two other ABC transporters expressed at the BBB, i.e. multidrug resistance protein 1 (MRP1) and breast cancer resistance protein (BCRP). However, previous data were obtained with micromolar concentrations of verapamil and do not necessarily reflect the transporter selectivity of verapamil at nanomolar concentrations, which are relevant for PET experiments. The aim of this study was to assess the selectivity of verapamil, in nanomolar concentrations, for Pgp over MRP1 and BCRP.


Concentration equilibrium transport assays were performed with [(3)H]verapamil (5 nM) in cell lines expressing murine or human Pgp, human MRP1, and murine Bcrp1 or human BCRP. Paired PET scans were performed with (R)-[(11)C]verapamil in female FVB/N (wild-type), Mrp1((-/-)), Mdr1a/b((-/-)), Bcrp1((-/-)) and Mdr1a/b((-/-))Bcrp1((-/-)) mice, before and after Pgp inhibition with 15 mg/kg tariquidar.


In vitro transport experiments exclusively showed directed transport of [(3)H]verapamil in Mdr1a- and MDR1-overexpressing cells which could be inhibited by tariquidar (0.5μM). In PET scans acquired before tariquidar administration, brain-to-blood ratio (Kb,brain) of (R)-[(11)C]verapamil was low in wild-type (1.3 ± 0.1), Mrp1((-/-)) (1.4 ± 0.1) and Bcrp1((-/-)) mice (1.8 ± 0.1) and high in Mdr1a/b((-/-)) (6.9 ± 0.8) and Mdr1a/b((-/-))Bcrp1((-/-)) mice (7.9 ± 0.5). In PET scans after tariquidar administration, Kb,brain was significantly increased in Pgp-expressing mice (wild-type: 5.0 ± 0.3-fold, Mrp1((-/-)): 3.2 ± 0.6-fold, Bcrp1((-/-)): 4.3 ± 0.1-fold) but not in Pgp knockout mice (Mdr1a/b((-/-)) and Mdr1a/b((-/-))Bcrp1((-/-))).


Our combined in vitro and in vivo data demonstrate that verapamil, in nanomolar concentrations, is selectively transported by Pgp and not by MRP1 and BCRP at the BBB, which supports the use of (R)-[(11)C]verapamil or racemic [(11)C]verapamil as PET tracers of cerebral Pgp function.


(R)-[(11)C]verapamil; Blood–brain barrier; Breast cancer resistance protein; Multidrug resistance protein 1; P-glycoprotein; Positron emission tomography

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