Analysis of the tangled relationships between P-glycoprotein-mediated multidrug resistance and the lipid phase of the cell membrane

Eur J Biochem. 2000 Jan;267(2):277-94. doi: 10.1046/j.1432-1327.2000.01046.x.


P-glycoprotein (Pgp), the so-called multidrug transporter, is a plasma membrane glycoprotein often involved in the resistance of cancer cells towards multiple anticancer agents in the multidrug-resistant (MDR) phenotype. It has long been recognized that the lipid phase of the plasma membrane plays an important role with respect to multidrug resistance and Pgp because: the compounds involved in the MDR phenotype are hydrophobic and diffuse passively through the membrane; Pgp domains involved in drug binding are located within the putative transmembrane segments; Pgp activity is highly sensitive to its lipid environment; and Pgp may be involved in lipid trafficking and metabolism. Unraveling the different roles played by the membrane lipid phase in MDR is relevant, not only to the evaluation of the precise role of Pgp, but also to the understanding of the mechanism of action and function of Pgp. With this aim, I review the data from different fields (cancer research, medicinal chemistry, membrane biophysics, pharmaceutical research) concerning drug-membrane, as well as Pgp-membrane, interactions. It is emphasized that the lipid phase of the membrane cannot be overlooked while investigating the MDR phenotype. Taking into account these aspects should be useful in the search of ways to obviate MDR and could also be relevant to the study of other multidrug transporters.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • ATP Binding Cassette Transporter, Subfamily B / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Binding Sites
  • Biological Transport / drug effects
  • Cell Membrane / drug effects
  • Cell Membrane / metabolism
  • Drug Resistance, Multiple / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Membrane Lipids / chemistry
  • Membrane Lipids / metabolism*
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations / metabolism


  • ATP Binding Cassette Transporter, Subfamily B
  • Membrane Lipids
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations