Adenosine triphosphate-binding cassette (ABC) transporters, such as P-glycoprotein (Pgp, ABCB1), breast cancer resistance protein (BCRP, ABCG2) and multidrug resistance-associated proteins (MRPs) are expressed in high concentrations at various physiological barriers (e.g. blood-brain barrier, blood-testis barrier, blood-tumor barrier), where they impede the tissue accumulation of various drugs by active efflux transport. Changes in ABC transporter expression and function are thought to be implicated in various diseases, such as cancer, epilepsy, Alzheimers and Parkinsons disease. The availability of a non-invasive imaging method which allows for measuring ABC transporter function or expression in vivo would be of great clinical use in that it could facilitate the identification of those patients that would benefit from treatment with ABC transporter modulating drugs. To date three different kinds of imaging probes have been described to measure ABC transporters in vivo: i) radiolabelled transporter substrates ii) radiolabelled transporter inhibitors and iii) radiolabelled prodrugs which are enzymatically converted into transporter substrates in the organ of interest (e.g. brain). The design of new imaging probes to visualize efflux transporters is inter alia complicated by the overlapping substrate recognition pattern of different ABC transporter types. The present article will describe currently available ABC transporter radiotracers for positron emission tomography (PET) and single-photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) and critically discuss strengths and limitations of individual probes and their potential clinical applications.
Keywords: ABC transporter, blood-brain barrier, breast cancer resistance protein, multidrug resistance-associated protein, P-glycoprotein, Positron emission tomography, single-photon emission computed tomography, tariquidar (XR9576), zosuquidar (LY335979), phosphatidylcholine translocase
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