Importance of P-glycoprotein at blood-tissue barriers

Trends Pharmacol Sci. 2004 Aug;25(8):423-9. doi: 10.1016/


P-glycoprotein is the product of the ABCB1 [also known as multidrug resistance 1 (MDR1)] gene. It translocates a broad variety of xenobiotics out of cells. P-glycoprotein was first described in tumor cells that were resistant to various anticancer agents as a result of P-glycoprotein overexpression. P-glycoprotein is not only expressed in tumor cells but also in a broad variety of normal tissues with excretory function (small intestine, liver and kidney) and at blood-tissue barriers (blood-brain barrier, blood-testis barrier and placenta). In particular, following the generation of P-glycoprotein-deficient mice it became clear that this efflux transporter limits the absorption of orally administered drugs, promotes drug elimination into bile and urine, and protects various tissues (e.g. brain, testis and fetus) from potentially toxic xenobiotics. In humans, a considerable interindividual variability in P-glycoprotein tissue expression is observed, and current research is focused on the potential role of ABCB1 polymorphisms and haplotypes that affect P-glycoprotein tissue expression, plasma concentrations of drugs, the frequency of adverse drug reactions and treatment outcome.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • ATP Binding Cassette Transporter, Subfamily B, Member 1 / genetics
  • ATP Binding Cassette Transporter, Subfamily B, Member 1 / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Blood-Brain Barrier / physiology
  • Blood-Testis Barrier / physiology
  • Humans
  • Intestinal Mucosa / metabolism
  • Kidney / metabolism
  • Liver / metabolism
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations / metabolism
  • Pharmacokinetics*
  • Placenta / physiology


  • ATP Binding Cassette Transporter, Subfamily B, Member 1
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations