Differential activity of P-glycoprotein in normal blood lymphocyte subsets

Br J Haematol. 1998 Jun;101(4):722-7. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2141.1998.00751.x.


To better understand the phenomenon of P-glycoprotein (P-170) expression we investigated lymphocyte subpopulations for P-170 function in healthy volunteers. Studies were based on three-colour flow cytometry including the fluorescent probe rhodamine 123 (Rh123), which is transported by P-170. Marked Rh123 efflux was detected in CD8+ T lymphocytes with CD8+/CD45RA+ T cells (naive cells) showing significantly higher P-170 activity as compared with CD8+/CD45RA- cells (P<0.04). Vice versa, CD8+/CD45RO+ T cells (memory cells) demonstrated less P-170 activity than CD8+/CD45RO- cells (P<0.04). P-170 function was less prominent in CD4+ T cells, however, Rh123 efflux was higher in the CD4+/CD45RA+ and CD4+/CD45RO- subpopulations (P<0.025) corresponding to the CD8+ results. Dye efflux differed significantly between activated and non-activated CD8+ and CD4+ as well as CD8+/CD11b+ and CD8+/CD11b- T lymphocytes. Since CD16+ natural killer cells (NK) expressed the highest level of P-170, the NK cytotoxicity against 51Cr-labelled K562 target cells was assayed in the presence or absence of P-170 inhibitors. NK related cytotoxicity was significantly reduced in the presence of R-verapamil and dexnigaldipine-HCP in a dose-dependent manner. The differential expression of P-170 activity in naive and memory T cells together with the reduced NK related cytotoxicity in the presence of MDR-modulators suggest a physiological role of P-170 in immunological functions of these lymphocyte subsets. Consequently, the addition of MDR modulators to conventional chemotherapy as a strategy to overcome drug resistance should consider possible adverse immunosuppressive effects.

MeSH terms

  • ATP Binding Cassette Transporter, Subfamily B, Member 1 / metabolism*
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / metabolism
  • Antigens, CD / metabolism
  • Drug Resistance, Multiple
  • Flow Cytometry / methods*
  • Fluorescent Dyes*
  • Humans
  • Killer Cells, Natural / metabolism
  • Rhodamine 123
  • Rhodamines*
  • T-Lymphocyte Subsets / metabolism*


  • ATP Binding Cassette Transporter, Subfamily B, Member 1
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Antigens, CD
  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • Rhodamines
  • Rhodamine 123