The expression of P-glycoprotein does influence the distribution of novel fluorescent compounds in solid tumour models

Br J Cancer. 2003 Oct 20;89(8):1581-9. doi: 10.1038/sj.bjc.6601300.


Solid tumours display a complex drug resistance phenotype that involves inherent and acquired mechanisms. Multicellular resistance is an inherent feature of solid tumours and is known to present significant barriers to drug permeation in tumours. Given this barrier, do acquired resistance mechanisms such as P-glycoprotein (P-gp) contribute significantly to resistance? To address this question, the multicellular tumour spheroid (MCTS) model was used to examine the influence of P-gp on drug distribution in solid tissue. Tumour spheroids (TS) were generated from either drug-sensitive MCF7(WT) cells or a drug-resistant, P-gp-expressing derivative MCF7(Adr). Confocal microscopy was used to measure time courses and distribution patterns of three fluorescent compounds; calcein-AM, rhodamine123 and BODIPY-taxol. These compounds were chosen because they are all substrates for P-gp-mediated transport, exhibit high fluorescence and are chemically dissimilar. For example, BODIPY-taxol and rhodamine 123 showed high accumulation and distributed extensively throughout the TS(WT), whereas calcein-AM accumulation was restricted to the outermost layers. The presence of P-gp in TS(Adr) resulted in negligible accumulation, regardless of the compound. Moreover, the inhibition of P-gp by nicardipine restored intracellular accumulation and distribution patterns to levels observed in TS(WT). The results demonstrate the effectiveness of P-gp in modulating drug distribution in solid tumour models. However, the penetration of agents throughout the tissue is strongly determined by the physico-chemical properties of the individual compounds.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • ATP Binding Cassette Transporter, Subfamily B, Member 1 / pharmacology*
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacokinetics*
  • Drug Resistance, Multiple*
  • Fluoresceins / pharmacokinetics*
  • Fluorescent Dyes / pharmacokinetics*
  • Humans
  • Microscopy, Confocal
  • Paclitaxel / analogs & derivatives*
  • Paclitaxel / pharmacokinetics*
  • Rhodamine 123 / pharmacokinetics*
  • Spheroids, Cellular


  • ATP Binding Cassette Transporter, Subfamily B, Member 1
  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Fluoresceins
  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • calcein AM
  • Rhodamine 123
  • Paclitaxel