Central nervous system (CNS) chemical protection depends upon discrete control of small-molecule access by the blood-brain barrier (BBB). Curiously, some drugs cause CNS side-effects despite negligible transit past the BBB. To investigate this phenomenon, we asked whether the highly BBB-enriched drug efflux transporter MDR1 has dual functions in controlling drug and endogenous molecule CNS homeostasis. If this is true, then brain-impermeable drugs could induce behavioral changes by affecting brain levels of endogenous molecules. Using computational, genetic, and pharmacologic approaches across diverse organisms, we demonstrate that BBB-localized efflux transporters are critical for regulating brain levels of endogenous steroids and steroid-regulated behaviors (sleep in Drosophila and anxiety in mice). Furthermore, we show that MDR1-interacting drugs are associated with anxiety-related behaviors in humans. We propose a general mechanism for common behavioral side effects of prescription drugs: pharmacologically challenging BBB efflux transporters disrupts brain levels of endogenous substrates and implicates the BBB in behavioral regulation.
Keywords: behavior; blood brain barrier; central nervous system; drug side effect mechanisms; drug transporters; endobiotics; steroid hormones; toxicology.
Copyright © 2017 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.