Brain penetration of ivermectin and selamectin in mdr1a,b P-glycoprotein- and bcrp- deficient knockout mice

J Vet Pharmacol Ther. 2009 Feb;32(1):87-96. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2885.2008.01007.x.


P-glycoprotein, which is encoded by the multi-drug resistance gene (MDR1), highly restricts the entry of ivermectin into the brain by an ATP-driven efflux mechanism at the blood-brain barrier. In dogs with a homozygous MDR1 mutation though, ivermectin accumulates in the brain and provokes severe signs of neurotoxicosis and even death. In contrast to ivermectin, selamectin is safer in the treatment of MDR1 mutant dogs, suggesting that selamectin is transported differently by P-glycoprotein across the blood-brain barrier. To test this, we applied selamectin to mdr1-deficient mdr1a,b(-/-) knockout mice and wild-type mice. Brain penetration, organ distribution, and plasma kinetics were analyzed after intravenous, oral, and dermal spot-on application in comparison with ivermectin. We found that in vivo both macrocyclic lactone compounds are substrates of P-glycoprotein and that these strongly accumulate in the brain of mdr1a,b(-/-) knockout mice compared with wild-type mice at therapeutic doses of 12 mg/kg selamectin and 0.2 mg/kg ivermectin. However, selamectin accumulates to a much lesser degree (5-10 times) than ivermectin (36-60 times) in the absence of P-glycoprotein. This could explain the broader margin of safety of selamectin in MDR1 mutant dogs. In liver, kidney, and testes, ivermectin and selamectin accumulated less than four times as much in mdr1a,b mutant mice as in wild-type mice. Breast cancer resistance protein (Bcrp)-deficient bcrp(-/-) knockout mice were also included in the application studies, but showed no differences in brain concentrations or organ distribution of either ivermectin or selamectin compared with wild-type mice. This indicates that Bcrp is not a relevant efflux carrier for these macrocyclic lactone compounds in vivo at the blood-brain barrier.

MeSH terms

  • ATP Binding Cassette Transporter, Subfamily B / genetics
  • ATP Binding Cassette Transporter, Subfamily B / metabolism*
  • ATP Binding Cassette Transporter, Subfamily G, Member 2
  • ATP-Binding Cassette Transporters / genetics
  • ATP-Binding Cassette Transporters / metabolism
  • Administration, Oral
  • Administration, Topical
  • Animals
  • Antiparasitic Agents / metabolism*
  • Antiparasitic Agents / pharmacokinetics
  • Area Under Curve
  • Biological Transport / drug effects
  • Blood-Brain Barrier / drug effects
  • Brain / drug effects
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Injections, Intravenous / veterinary
  • Ivermectin / analogs & derivatives*
  • Ivermectin / metabolism*
  • Ivermectin / pharmacokinetics
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Multidrug Resistance-Associated Proteins / genetics*
  • Multidrug Resistance-Associated Proteins / metabolism*
  • Organ Specificity
  • Random Allocation
  • Safety
  • Tissue Distribution


  • ATP Binding Cassette Transporter, Subfamily B
  • ATP Binding Cassette Transporter, Subfamily G, Member 2
  • ATP-Binding Cassette Transporters
  • Abcg2 protein, mouse
  • Antiparasitic Agents
  • Multidrug Resistance-Associated Proteins
  • Ivermectin
  • selamectin