The Mr 190,000 multidrug resistance protein (MRP) confers resistance to a broad spectrum of natural product drugs. However, it has not been possible to demonstrate that MRP can actively transport unmodified forms of these compounds, although the protein has been shown to transport structurally diverse glutathione (GSH)- and glucuronide-conjugated molecules. Previously, we showed that ATP-dependent uptake of vincristine by MRP-enriched, inside-out membrane vesicles could be stimulated by physiological concentrations of GSH (Loe et al., J. Biol. Chem., 271: 9675–9682, 1996). We have now established that the ATP/GSH dependent vincristine uptake is both proportional to the level of MRP in the membrane vesicles and can be inhibited by monoclonal antibodies shown previously to inhibit transport of established MRP substrates, such as leukotriene C4. We also show that short-chain alkyl derivatives of GSH can stimulate drug uptake, which suggests that vincristine transport does not necessarily involve a change in redox state or glutathionylation of the protein. Furthermore, vincristine uptake is accompanied by ATP- and drug-dependent accumulation of GSH, which can also be stimulated to a lesser extent by vinblastine but not daunorubicin or doxorubicin. Although GSH or vincristine alone are very poor inhibitors of MRP-mediated transport of leukotriene C4, together they act as relatively potent competitive inhibitors. Overall, our data demonstrate that MRP can actively cotransport GSH and unmodified vincristine and that these compounds probably interact, either with the leukotriene C4 binding site(s) on the protein or with a mutually exclusive site.
Supported by Grant MT-10519 from the Medical Research Council of Canada. R. G. D. is the Stauffer Research Professor of Queen's University, and S. P. C. C. is a Senior Scientist of Cancer Care Ontario.