Drug transport to the brain: key roles for the efflux pump P-glycoprotein in the blood-brain barrier

Vascul Pharmacol. 2002 Jun;38(6):339-48. doi: 10.1016/s1537-1891(02)00201-x.


1. The blood-brain barrier (BBB) contributes to brain homeostastis and fulfills a protective function by controlling the access of solutes and toxic substances to the central nervous system (CNS). The efflux transporter P-glycoprotein (P-gp) is a key element of the molecular machinery that confers special permeability properties to the BBB. 2. P-gp, which was initially recognized for its ability to expel anticancer drugs from multidrug-resistant cancer cells, is strongly expressed in brain capillaries. Its expression in the BBB limits the accumulation of many hydrophobic molecules and potentially toxic substances in the brain. 3. The purpose of this review is to summarize the current state of knowledge about the expression of P-gp, its cellular localization as well as its possible functions in the BBB.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • ATP Binding Cassette Transporter, Subfamily B, Member 1 / metabolism*
  • Antineoplastic Agents / metabolism
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology
  • Biological Transport
  • Blood-Brain Barrier*
  • Brain / blood supply
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Brain Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Drug Resistance, Neoplasm
  • Endothelium, Vascular / cytology
  • Endothelium, Vascular / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Microcirculation / cytology
  • Microcirculation / metabolism


  • ATP Binding Cassette Transporter, Subfamily B, Member 1
  • Antineoplastic Agents