Cysteine-scanning mutagenesis provides no evidence for the extracellular accessibility of the nucleotide-binding domains of the multidrug resistance transporter P-glycoprotein

EMBO J. 1999 Dec 1;18(23):6800-8. doi: 10.1093/emboj/18.23.6800.


Multidrug resistance of cancer cells is, at least in part, conferred by overexpression of P-glycoprotein (P-gp), a member of the ATP-binding cassette (ABC) superfamily of active transporters. P-gp actively extrudes chemotherapeutic drugs from cells, thus reducing their efficacy. As a typical ABC transporter, P-gp has four domains: two transmembrane domains, which form a pathway through the membrane through which substrates are transported, and two hydrophilic nucleotide-binding domains (NBDs), located on the cytoplasmic side of the membrane, which couple the energy of ATP hydrolysis to substrate translocation. It has been proposed that the NBDs of ABC transporters, including the histidine permease of Salmonella typhimurium and the cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator, are accessible from the extracellular surface of the cell, spanning the membrane directly or potentially contributing to the transmembrane pore. Such organization would have significant implications for the transport mechanism. We determined to establish whether the NBDs of P-gp are exposed extracellularly and which amino acids are accessible, using cysteine-scanning mutagenesis and limited proteolysis. In contrast to other transporters, the data provided no evidence that the P-gp NBDs are exposed to the cell surface. The implications for the structure and mechanism of P-gp and other ABC transporters are discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • 3T3 Cells
  • ATP Binding Cassette Transporter, Subfamily B, Member 1 / chemistry*
  • ATP Binding Cassette Transporter, Subfamily B, Member 1 / metabolism*
  • ATP-Binding Cassette Transporters / chemistry*
  • ATP-Binding Cassette Transporters / metabolism*
  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Blotting, Western
  • Cell Line
  • Cysteine / chemistry
  • Endopeptidases / metabolism
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Glycosylation
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Models, Molecular
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Mutagenesis, Site-Directed
  • Protein Binding
  • Protein Structure, Tertiary
  • Sequence Homology, Amino Acid


  • ATP Binding Cassette Transporter, Subfamily B, Member 1
  • ATP-Binding Cassette Transporters
  • Endopeptidases
  • Cysteine