Implications of genetic polymorphisms in drug transporters for pharmacotherapy

Cancer Lett. 2006 Mar 8;234(1):4-33. doi: 10.1016/j.canlet.2005.06.051. Epub 2006 Feb 28.


Drug transporters are increasingly recognized as a key determinant of drug disposition and response. It is now widely appreciated that expression of the ATP-dependent efflux transporter, MDR1 (ABCB1, P-glycoprotein), in organs such as the gastrointestinal tract, liver and kidney significantly alters the extent of drug absorption and excretion. Moreover, expression of MDR1 at the level of the blood-brain barrier limits the entry of many drugs into the central nervous system. Given such an important role of MDR1 in the drug disposition process, it is not surprising to see increasing focus on the role of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in this transporter as a potential determinant of interindividual variability in drug disposition and pharmacological response. However, drug transport is often the result of the concerted action of efflux and uptake pumps located both in the basolateral and apical membranes of epithelial cells. A growing list of membrane-spanning proteins involved in the in- or outward transport of a large variety of drugs has been recognized and characterized over the past few years in almost all tissues, including organic anion and cation transporters (OAT, OCT, solute carrier family SLC22A), organic anion transport proteins (OATP, solute carrier family SLCO, formerly SLC21A), and MRPs (ABCCs), other members of the ATP-binding cassette family. We are just beginning to appreciate their role for drug delivery and disposition and the contribution of genetic polymorphisms in these transport proteins to interindividual variability in the efficacy and safety for pharmacotherapy. This review summarizes the consequences of inherited differences in drug transport for pharmacotherapy. With the main focus on ABCB1, an update of recent advances is given and clinically relevant examples are used to illustrate how heritable differential drug transport can help to explain individual variability in drug response. The pharmacogenetics of other transporters is briefly introduced.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • ATP-Binding Cassette Transporters / genetics*
  • Drug Therapy*
  • Humans
  • Polymorphism, Genetic*


  • ATP-Binding Cassette Transporters