Multidrug resistance proteins (MRPs, ABCCs): importance for pathophysiology and drug therapy

Handb Exp Pharmacol. 2011;(201):299-323. doi: 10.1007/978-3-642-14541-4_8.


The nine multidrug resistance proteins (MRPs) represent the major part of the 12 members of the MRP/CFTR subfamily belonging to the 48 human ATP-binding cassette (ABC) transporters. Cloning, functional characterization, and cellular localization of most MRP subfamily members have identified them as ATP-dependent efflux pumps with a broad substrate specificity for the transport of endogenous and xenobiotic anionic substances localized in cellular plasma membranes. Prototypic substrates include glutathione conjugates such as leukotriene C(4) for MRP1, MRP2, and MRP4, bilirubin glucuronosides for MRP2 and MRP3, and cyclic AMP and cyclic GMP for MRP4, MRP5, and MRP8. Reduced glutathione (GSH), present in living cells at millimolar concentrations, modifies the substrate specificities of several MRPs, as exemplified by the cotransport of vincristine with GSH by MRP1, or by the cotransport of GSH with bile acids or of GSH with leukotriene B(4) by MRP4.The role of MRP subfamily members in pathophysiology may be illustrated by the MRP-mediated release of proinflammatory and immunomodulatory mediators such as leukotrienes and prostanoids. Pathophysiological consequences of many genetic variants leading to a lack of functional MRP protein in the plasma membrane are observed in the hereditary MRP2 deficiency associated with conjugated hyperbilirubinemia in Dubin-Johnson syndrome, in pseudoxanthoma elasticum due to mutations in the MRP6 (ABCC6) gene, or in the type of human earwax and osmidrosis determined by single nucleotide polymorphisms in the MRP8 (ABCC8) gene. The hepatobiliary and renal elimination of many drugs and their metabolites is mediated by MRP2 in the hepatocyte canalicular membrane and by MRP4 as well as MRP2 in the luminal membrane of kidney proximal tubules. Therefore, inhibition of these efflux pumps affects pharmacokinetics, unless compensated by other ATP-dependent efflux pumps with overlapping substrate specificities.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • ATP-Binding Cassette Transporters / antagonists & inhibitors
  • ATP-Binding Cassette Transporters / genetics
  • ATP-Binding Cassette Transporters / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Biological Transport
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease
  • Genetic Variation
  • Humans
  • Kidney / metabolism
  • Kidney / physiopathology
  • Liver / metabolism
  • Liver / physiopathology
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Multidrug Resistance-Associated Proteins / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Multidrug Resistance-Associated Proteins / genetics
  • Multidrug Resistance-Associated Proteins / metabolism*
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations / metabolism*
  • Phenotype


  • ATP-Binding Cassette Transporters
  • Multidrug Resistance-Associated Proteins
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations