Placental BCRP/ABCG2 Transporter Prevents Fetal Exposure to the Estrogenic Mycotoxin Zearalenone

Toxicol Sci. 2019 Apr 1;168(2):394-404. doi: 10.1093/toxsci/kfy303.


In the placenta, the breast cancer resistance protein (BCRP)/ABCG2 efflux transporter limits the maternal-to-fetal transfer of drugs and chemicals. Previous research has pointed to the estrogenic mycotoxin zearalenone as a potential substrate for BCRP. Here, we sought to assess the role of the BCRP transporter in the transplacental disposition of zearalenone during pregnancy. In vitro transwell transport assays employing BCRP/Bcrp-transfected Madine-Darby canine kidney cells and BeWo trophoblasts with reduced BCRP expression were used to characterize the impact of BCRP on the bidirectional transport of zearalenone. In both models, the presence of BCRP protein increased the basolateral-to-apical transport and reduced the apical-to-basolateral transport of zearalenone over a 2-h period. In vivo pharmacokinetic analyses were then performed using pregnant wild-type and Bcrp-/- mice after a single tail vein injection of zearalenone. Zearalenone and its metabolite α-zearalenol were detectable in serum, placentas, and fetuses from all animals, and β-zearalenol was detected in serum and fetuses, but not placentas. There were no significant differences in the maternal serum concentrations of any analytes between the two genotypes. In Bcrp-/- mice, the free fetal concentrations of zearalenone, α-zearalenol, and β-zearalenol were increased by 115%, 84%, and 150%, respectively, when compared with wild-type mice. Concentrations of free zearalenone and α-zearalenol were elevated 145% and 78% in Bcrp-/- placentas, respectively, when compared with wild-type placentas. Taken together, these data indicate that the placental BCRP transporter functions to reduce the fetal accumulation of zearalenone, which may impact susceptibility to developmental toxicities associated with in utero zearalenone exposure.

Keywords: ABCG2; BCRP; mycotoxin; placenta; zearalenone.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • ATP Binding Cassette Transporter, Subfamily G, Member 2 / genetics
  • ATP Binding Cassette Transporter, Subfamily G, Member 2 / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Biological Transport
  • Dogs
  • Estrogens, Non-Steroidal / pharmacokinetics*
  • Estrogens, Non-Steroidal / toxicity
  • Female
  • Fetus / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Madin Darby Canine Kidney Cells
  • Maternal-Fetal Exchange / drug effects*
  • Maternal-Fetal Exchange / genetics
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Placenta / drug effects*
  • Placenta / metabolism
  • Pregnancy
  • Tissue Distribution
  • Transfection
  • Trophoblasts / drug effects
  • Trophoblasts / metabolism
  • Zearalenone / pharmacokinetics*
  • Zearalenone / toxicity


  • ATP Binding Cassette Transporter, Subfamily G, Member 2
  • Abcg2 protein, mouse
  • Estrogens, Non-Steroidal
  • Zearalenone