Several major antiepileptic drugs are substrates for human P-glycoprotein

Neuropharmacology. 2008 Dec;55(8):1364-75. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropharm.2008.08.032. Epub 2008 Sep 11.


One of the current hypotheses of pharmacoresistant epilepsy proposes that transport of antiepileptic drugs (AEDs) by drug efflux transporters such as P-glycoprotein (Pgp) at the blood-brain barrier may play a significant role in pharmacoresistance in epilepsy by extruding AEDs from their intended site of action. However, several recent in vitro studies using cell lines that overexpress efflux transporters indicate that human Pgp may not transport AEDs to any relevant extent. In this respect it has to be considered that most AEDs are highly permeable, so that conventional bi-directional transport assays as used in these previous studies may fail to identify AEDs as Pgp substrates, particularly if these drugs are not high-affinity substrates for Pgp. In the present study, we used a modified transport assay that allows evaluating active transport independently of the passive permeability component. In this concentration equilibrium transport assay (CETA), the drug is initially added at identical concentration to both sides of a polarized, Pgp-overexpressing cell monolayer instead of applying the drug to either the apical or basolateral side for studying bi-directional transport. Direct comparison of the conventional bi-directional (concentration gradient) assay with the CETA, using MDR1-transfected LLC cells, demonstrated that CETA, but not the conventional assay, identified phenytoin and phenobarbital as substrates of human Pgp. Furthermore, directional transport was determined for lamotrigine and levetiracetam, but not carbamazepine. Transport of AEDs could be completely or partially (>50%) inhibited by the selective Pgp inhibitor, tariquidar. However, transport of phenobarbital and levetiracetam was also inhibited by MK571, which preferentially blocks transport by multidrug resistance transporters (MRPs), indicating that, in addition to Pgp, these AEDs are substrates of MRPs. The present study provides the first direct evidence that several AEDS are substrates of human Pgp, thus further substantiating the transporter hypothesis of pharmacoresistant epilepsy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • ATP Binding Cassette Transporter, Subfamily B
  • ATP Binding Cassette Transporter, Subfamily B, Member 1 / genetics
  • ATP Binding Cassette Transporter, Subfamily B, Member 1 / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Anticonvulsants / pharmacology*
  • Area Under Curve
  • Biological Transport / drug effects
  • Cell Line, Transformed
  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid / methods
  • Digoxin / pharmacology
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Drug Interactions
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Humans
  • Swine
  • Transfection


  • ABCB1 protein, human
  • ATP Binding Cassette Transporter, Subfamily B
  • ATP Binding Cassette Transporter, Subfamily B, Member 1
  • Anticonvulsants
  • Enzyme Inhibitors
  • Digoxin