Biophysics of cell membrane lipids in cancer drug resistance: Implications for drug transport and drug delivery with nanoparticles

Adv Drug Deliv Rev. 2013 Nov;65(13-14):1686-98. doi: 10.1016/j.addr.2013.09.004. Epub 2013 Sep 19.


In this review, we focus on the biophysics of cell membrane lipids, particularly when cancers develop acquired drug resistance, and how biophysical changes in resistant cell membrane influence drug transport and nanoparticle-mediated drug delivery. Recent advances in membrane lipid research show the varied roles of lipids in regulating membrane P-glycoprotein function, membrane trafficking, apoptotic pathways, drug transport, and endocytic functions, particularly endocytosis, the primary mechanism of cellular uptake of nanoparticle-based drug delivery systems. Since acquired drug resistance alters lipid biosynthesis, understanding the role of lipids in cell membrane biophysics and its effect on drug transport is critical for developing effective therapeutic and drug delivery approaches to overcome drug resistance. Here we discuss novel strategies for (a) modulating the biophysical properties of membrane lipids of resistant cells to facilitate drug transport and regain endocytic function and (b) developing effective nanoparticles based on their biophysical interactions with membrane lipids to enhance drug delivery and overcome drug resistance.

Keywords: ADR; AFM; Adriamycin-resistant; Apoptosis; Atomic force microscopic; CTAB; Cetyltrimethylammonium bromide; DMAB; Didodecyldimethylammonium bromide; ERC; ERCC1; Endocytic recycling compartment; Endocytosis; Excision repair cross-complementation group 1; GCS; Glucosylceramide synthase; HUVECs; Human umbilical vein endothelial cells; MDR; Membrane fluidity; Multidrug resistance; NP; Nanomedicine; Nanoparticle; P-glycoprotein efflux; P-gp; PC; PE; PS; Permeability glycoprotein; Phosphatidyl ethanolamine; Phosphatidyl serine; Phosphocholine; SM; SMase; Sphingomyelin; Sphingomyelinase; TAT; Trans-activating transcriptional.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Transport
  • Biophysical Phenomena / physiology*
  • Drug Carriers / chemistry*
  • Drug Resistance / physiology*
  • Endocytosis / physiology
  • Humans
  • Membrane Lipids* / chemistry
  • Membrane Lipids* / metabolism
  • Nanoparticles / chemistry*
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations* / administration & dosage
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations* / metabolism


  • Drug Carriers
  • Membrane Lipids
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations