Breast cancer resistance protein (Bcrp/abcg2) is a major determinant of sulfasalazine absorption and elimination in the mouse

Mol Pharm. 2006 Jan-Feb;3(1):55-61. doi: 10.1021/mp050113v.


Sulfasalazine is used in the treatment of ulcerative colitis, Crohn's disease, and rheumatoid arthritis. When administered orally, sulfasalazine is poorly absorbed with an estimated bioavailability of 3-12%. Recent studies using the T-cell line (CEM) have shown that sulfasalazine is a substrate for the ATP-binding cassette (ABC) efflux pump ABCG2. ABCG2 is known to efflux a number of xenobiotics and appears to be a key determinant of efficacy and toxicity of ABCG2 substrates. To date, there has not been any systematic study on the mechanisms involved in the transport of sulfasalazine in vivo. Accordingly, we investigated whether Bcrp (abcg2) is involved in the disposition of sulfasalazine. After oral administration of 20 mg/kg sulfasalazine, the area under the plasma concentration (AUC) time profile in Bcrp1 (abcg2)-/- knockout (KO) mice was approximately 111-fold higher than that in FVB wild-type (WT) mice. After intravenous administration of 5 mg/kg sulfasalazine, the AUC in Bcrp1 (abcg2)-/- KO mice was approximately 13-fold higher than that in WT mice. Moreover, treatment of WT mice with a single oral dose of gefitinib (Iressa; 50 mg/kg), a known inhibitor of Bcrp, given 2 h prior to administering a single oral dose of sulfasalazine (20 mg/kg), resulted in a 13-fold increase in the AUC of sulfasalazine compared to the AUC in vehicle-treated mice. Since gefitinib is also an inhibitor of P-glycoprotein (P-gp), the impact of P-gp on sulfasalazine absorption in vivo was also examined. The sulfasalazine AUC in mdr1a-/- KO versus WT mice did not differ significantly after either an oral (20 mg/kg) or an intravenous dose (5 mg/kg). We conclude that Bcrp (abcg2) is an important determinant for the oral bioavailability and the elimination of sulfasalazine in the mouse, and that sulfasalazine has the potential to be utilized as a specific in vivo probe of Bcrp (abcg2).

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • ATP Binding Cassette Transporter, Subfamily B / genetics
  • ATP Binding Cassette Transporter, Subfamily G, Member 2
  • ATP-Binding Cassette Transporters / drug effects
  • ATP-Binding Cassette Transporters / genetics
  • ATP-Binding Cassette Transporters / metabolism*
  • Absorption / drug effects*
  • Administration, Oral
  • Animals
  • Area Under Curve
  • Biological Availability
  • Gefitinib
  • Injections, Intravenous
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Quinazolines / pharmacology*
  • Sulfasalazine / administration & dosage
  • Sulfasalazine / metabolism*
  • Sulfasalazine / pharmacokinetics*
  • Time Factors


  • ATP Binding Cassette Transporter, Subfamily B
  • ATP Binding Cassette Transporter, Subfamily G, Member 2
  • ATP-Binding Cassette Transporters
  • Abcg2 protein, mouse
  • Quinazolines
  • Sulfasalazine
  • multidrug resistance protein 3
  • Gefitinib