The function of breast cancer resistance protein in epithelial barriers, stem cells and milk secretion of drugs and xenotoxins

Trends Pharmacol Sci. 2006 Jan;27(1):10-6. doi: 10.1016/ Epub 2005 Dec 6.


The breast cancer resistance protein [BCRP (also known as ABCG2)] belongs to the ATP binding cassette (ABC) family of transmembrane drug transporters. BCRP has a broad substrate specificity and actively extrudes a wide variety of drugs, carcinogens and dietary toxins from cells. Situated in the apical plasma membrane of epithelial cells of the small and large intestine and renal proximal tubules and in the bile canalicular membrane of hepatocytes, BCRP decreases the oral availability and systemic exposure of its substrates. In several blood-tissue barriers BCRP reduces tissue penetration of its substrates and it protects haematopoietic stem cells from cytotoxic substrates. Moreover, BCRP is expressed in mammary gland alveolar epithelial cells during pregnancy and lactation, where it actively secretes a variety of drugs, toxins and carcinogens into milk. In apparent contradiction with the detoxifying role of BCRP in mothers, this contamination of milk exposes suckling infants and dairy consumers to xenotoxins. BCRP thus affects many important aspects of pharmacology and toxicology.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • ATP Binding Cassette Transporter, Subfamily G, Member 2
  • ATP-Binding Cassette Transporters / antagonists & inhibitors
  • ATP-Binding Cassette Transporters / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Biological Availability
  • Breast / metabolism
  • Carcinogens / metabolism
  • Epithelium / metabolism
  • Female
  • Hematopoietic Stem Cells / drug effects*
  • Humans
  • Milk / metabolism*
  • Neoplasm Proteins / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Neoplasm Proteins / physiology*
  • Substrate Specificity
  • Xenobiotics / metabolism*
  • Xenobiotics / toxicity


  • ABCG2 protein, human
  • ATP Binding Cassette Transporter, Subfamily G, Member 2
  • ATP-Binding Cassette Transporters
  • Carcinogens
  • Neoplasm Proteins
  • Xenobiotics