Role of transporters in placental transfer of drugs

Toxicol Appl Pharmacol. 2005 Sep 1;207(2 Suppl):381-7. doi: 10.1016/j.taap.2005.02.023.


Human placenta functions as an important transport organ that mediates the exchange of nutrients and metabolites between maternal and fetal circulations. This function is made possible because of the expression of a multitude of transport proteins in the placental syncytiotrophoblast with differential localization in the maternal-facing brush border membrane versus the fetal-facing basal membrane. Even though the physiological role of most of these transport proteins is to handle nutrients, many of them interact with xenobiotics and pharmacological agents. These transport proteins therefore play a critical role in the disposition of drugs across the maternal-fetal interface, with some transporters facilitating the entry of drugs from maternal circulation into fetal circulation whereas others preventing such entry by actively eliminating drugs from the placenta back into maternal circulation. The net result as to whether the placenta enhances the exposure of the developing fetus to drugs and xenobiotics or functions as a barrier to protect the fetus from such agents depends on the types of transporters expressed in the brush border membrane and basal membrane of the syncytiotrophoblast and on the functional mode of these transporters (influx versus efflux).

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Carrier Proteins / classification
  • Carrier Proteins / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Maternal-Fetal Exchange*
  • Pharmacokinetics
  • Pregnancy


  • Carrier Proteins