Multidrug resistance-associated proteins: Export pumps for conjugates with glutathione, glucuronate or sulfate

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Many endogenous or xenobiotic lipophilic substances are eliminated from the cells by the sequence of oxidation, conjugation to an anionic group (glutathione, glucuronate or sulfate) and transport across the plasma membrane into the extracellular space. The latter step is mediated by integral membrane glycoproteins belonging to the superfamily of ATP-Binding Cassette (ABC) transporters. A subfamily, referred as ABCC, includes the famous/infamous cystic fibrosis transmembrane regulator (CFTR), the sulfonylurea receptors (SUR 1 and 2), and the multidrug resistance-associated proteins (MRPs). The name of the MRPs refers to their potential role in clinical multidrug resistance, a phenomenon that hinders the effective chemotherapy of tumors. The MRPs that have been functionally characterized so far share the property of ATP-dependent export pumps for conjugates with glutathione (GSH), glucuronate or sulfate. MRP1 and MRP2 are also mediating the cotransport of unconjugated amphiphilic compounds together with free GSH. MRP3 preferentially transports glucuronides but not glutathione S-conjugates or free GSH. MRP1 and MRP2 also contribute to the control of the intracellular glutathione disulfide (GSSG) level. Although these proteins are low affinity GSSG transporters, they can play essential role in response to oxidative stress when the activity of GSSG reductase becomes rate limiting. The human MRP4, MRP5 and MRP6 have only partially been characterized. However, it has been revealed that MRP4 can function as an efflux pump for cyclic nucleotides and nucleoside analogues, used as anti-HIV drugs. MRP5 also transports GSH conjugates, nucleoside analogues, and possibly heavy metal complexes. Transport of glutathione S-conjugates mediated by MRP6, the mutation of which causes pseudoxantoma elasticum, has recently been shown. In summary, numerous members of the multidrug resistance-associated protein family serve as export pumps that prevent the accumulation of anionic conjugates and GSSG in the cytoplasm, and play, therefore, an essential role in detoxification and defense against oxidative stress.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)103-114
Number of pages12
Issue number1-4
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1 2003


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Medicine
  • Clinical Biochemistry

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