Transport molecules can significantly affect the pharmacodynamics and pharmacokinetics of drugs. An important transport molecule, the 170kDa P-glycoprotein (Pgp), is constitutively expressed at several organ sites in the human body. Pgp is expressed at the blood-brain barrier, in the kidneys, liver, intestines and in certain T cells. Other transporters such as the multidrug resistance protein 1 (MRP1) and MRP2 also contribute to drug distribution in the human body, although to a lesser extent than Pgp. These three transporters, and especially Pgp, are often targets of drugs. Pgp can be an intentional or unintentional target. It is directly targeted when one wants to block its function by a modifier drug so that another drug, also a substrate of Pgp, can penetrate the cell membrane, which would otherwise be impermeable. Unintentional targeting occurs when several drugs are administered to a patient and as a consequence, the physiological function of Pgp is blocked at different organ sites. Like Pgp, MRP1 also has the capacity to mediate transport of many drugs and other compounds. MRP1 has a protective role in preventing accumulation of toxic compounds and drugs in epithelial tissue covering the choroid plexus/cerebrospinal fluid compartment, oral epithelium, sertoli cells, intesticular tubules and urinary collecting duct cells. MRP2 primarily transports weakly basic drugs and bilirubin from the liver to bile. Most compounds that efficiently block Pgp have only low affinity for MRP1 and MRP2. There are only a few effective and specific MRP inhibitors available. Drug targeting of these transporters may play a role in cancer chemotherapy and in the pharmacokinetics of substrate drugs.
Keywords: Drug-drug interactions, P-glycoprotein, multidrug transporters, cancer chemotherapy, intentional and/or unintentional targets, drug resistance, polypharmacy