Decreased potency of MDR-modulators under serum conditions determined by a functional assay

Br J Haematol. 1995 Nov;91(3):652-7. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2141.1995.tb05362.x.


A variety of agents are capable of overcoming P-glycoprotein-mediated multidrug resistance (MDR) in vitro. However, the clinical potential of these compounds is often limited due to high plasma protein binding. We compared the efficacy of several MDR-reversing compounds in serum-free culture medium and under serum conditions by means of a functional assay. Using flow cytometry the efflux of the fluorescent dye rhodamine 123 (Rh123) was measured from normal peripheral blood CD8+ T-lymphocytes which express low levels of P-glycoprotein. Inhibition of Rh123 efflux by R-verapamil, dexnigludipine-HCl, cyclosporin A, SDZ PSC833 and the protein kinase C (PKC) inhibitor CGP 41251 was determined in serum-free medium and in serum at concentrations from 0.1 to 50 mumol/l. With the exception of SDZ PSC833 all MDR modulators showed an insufficient or suboptimal modulation of P-glycoprotein under serum conditions at concentrations achievable in vivo. The highest potency under serum conditions demonstrated SDZ PSC833: even at a concentration of 0.5 mumol/l a sufficient inhibitory effect was observed. Subsequently this approach was applied to patients suffering from B-cell chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (B-CLL; n = 3) and acute myeloid leukaemia (AML; n = 2) which were positive in the Rh123 efflux assay. As for normal CD8+ T-lymphocytes, much higher drug concentrations were required under serum conditions to effectively inhibit Rh123 efflux from the leukaemic cells. Thus the interpretation of results of clinical 'modulator' trials should consider the decreased bioavailability of MDR-reversing agents.

MeSH terms

  • ATP Binding Cassette Transporter, Subfamily B, Member 1 / pharmacology
  • Acute Disease
  • Antimetabolites, Antineoplastic / metabolism*
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology
  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes / metabolism*
  • Cyclosporine / pharmacology
  • Dihydropyridines / pharmacology
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Drug Resistance, Multiple*
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Humans
  • Leukemia, Lymphocytic, Chronic, B-Cell / metabolism
  • Leukemia, Myeloid / metabolism
  • Rhodamine 123
  • Rhodamines / metabolism*
  • Verapamil / pharmacology


  • ATP Binding Cassette Transporter, Subfamily B, Member 1
  • Antimetabolites, Antineoplastic
  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Dihydropyridines
  • Rhodamines
  • Rhodamine 123
  • Cyclosporine
  • Verapamil
  • niguldipine