Pregnant women are often complicated with diseases including viral or bacterial infections, epilepsy, hypertension, or pregnancy-induced conditions such as depression and gestational diabetes that require treatment with medication. In addition, substance abuse during pregnancy remains a major public health problem. Many drugs used by pregnant women are off label without the necessary dose, efficacy, and safety data required for rational dosing regimens of these drugs. Thus, a major concern arising from the widespread use of drugs by pregnant women is the transfer of drugs across the placental barrier, leading to potential toxicity to the developing fetus. Knowledge regarding the ATP-binding cassette (ABC) efflux transporters, which play an important role in drug transfer across the placental barrier, is absolutely critical for optimizing the therapeutic strategy to treat the mother while protecting the fetus during pregnancy. Such transporters include P-glycoprotein (P-gp, gene symbol ABCB1), the breast cancer resistance protein (BCRP, gene symbol ABCG2), and the multidrug resistance proteins (MRPs, gene symbol ABCCs). In this review, we summarize the current knowledge with respect to developmental expression and regulation, membrane localization, functional significance, and genetic polymorphisms of these ABC transporters in the placenta and their relevance to fetal drug exposure and toxicity.
Keywords: ABC transporters, BCRP, fetal drug exposure, fetus, P-gp, MRPs, transplacental drug transport, depression, gestational diabetes, P-glycoprotein, genetic polymorphisms, toxicity, placenta, pregnancy, to transplacental transfer