Multidrug resistance in epilepsy: rats with drug-resistant seizures exhibit enhanced brain expression of P-glycoprotein compared with rats with drug-responsive seizures

Brain. 2005 Jun;128(Pt 6):1358-68. doi: 10.1093/brain/awh437. Epub 2005 Feb 16.


Medical intractability, i.e. the absence of any response to anti-epileptic drug (AED) therapy, is an unresolved problem in many patients with epilepsy. Mechanisms of intractability are not well understood, but may include alterations of pharmacological targets and poor penetration of AEDs into the brain because of increased expression of multiple drug-resistance proteins, such as P-glycoprotein (Pgp; ABCB1), capable of active brain extrusion of various drugs, including AEDs. Increased expression of Pgp has been reported in brain tissue of patients with refractory epilepsy, but there is a lack of adequate controls, i.e. brain tissue from patients with drug-responsive epilepsy. In the present study, we used a rat model of temporal lobe epilepsy to examine whether AED responders differ from non-responders in their expression of Pgp in the brain. In this model, spontaneous recurrent seizures develop after status epilepticus induced by prolonged electrical stimulation of the basolateral amygdala. The frequency of these seizures was recorded by continuous video-EEG monitoring before, during and after daily treatment with phenobarbital, which was given at maximum tolerated doses for 2 weeks. Based on their individual response to phenobarbital, rats were grouped into responders (n = 7) and non-responders (n = 4). Pgp expression was studied by immunohistochemistry and showed striking overexpression in non-responders compared with responders in limbic brain regions, including the hippocampus. The Pgp overexpression was confined to brain capillary endothelial cells which form the blood-brain barrier. The present data are the first to demonstrate that rats with drug-resistant spontaneous seizures differ from rats with drug-responsive seizures in their Pgp expression in the brain, thereby substantiating the multidrug transporter hypothesis of intractable epilepsy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • ATP Binding Cassette Transporter, Subfamily B, Member 1 / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Anticonvulsants / therapeutic use
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Drug Resistance, Multiple*
  • Female
  • Glucose Transporter Type 1
  • Immunoenzyme Techniques
  • Monosaccharide Transport Proteins / metabolism
  • Phenobarbital / therapeutic use
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Status Epilepticus / drug therapy
  • Status Epilepticus / metabolism*


  • ATP Binding Cassette Transporter, Subfamily B, Member 1
  • Anticonvulsants
  • Glucose Transporter Type 1
  • Monosaccharide Transport Proteins
  • Phenobarbital