Sensitive and specific fluorescent probes for functional analysis of the three major types of mammalian ABC transporters

Irina V Lebedeva, Praveen Pande, Wayne F Patton
PloS One 2011, 6 (7): e22429
An underlying mechanism for multi drug resistance (MDR) is up-regulation of the transmembrane ATP-binding cassette (ABC) transporter proteins. ABC transporters also determine the general fate and effect of pharmaceutical agents in the body. The three major types of ABC transporters are MDR1 (P-gp, P-glycoprotein, ABCB1), MRP1/2 (ABCC1/2) and BCRP/MXR (ABCG2) proteins. Flow cytometry (FCM) allows determination of the functional expression levels of ABC transporters in live cells, but most dyes used as indicators (rhodamine 123, DiOC(2)(3), calcein-AM) have limited applicability as they do not detect all three major types of ABC transporters. Dyes with broad coverage (such as doxorubicin, daunorubicin and mitoxantrone) lack sensitivity due to overall dimness and thus may yield a significant percentage of false negative results. We describe two novel fluorescent probes that are substrates for all three common types of ABC transporters and can serve as indicators of MDR in flow cytometry assays using live cells. The probes exhibit fast internalization, favorable uptake/efflux kinetics and high sensitivity of MDR detection, as established by multidrug resistance activity factor (MAF) values and Kolmogorov-Smirnov statistical analysis. Used in combination with general or specific inhibitors of ABC transporters, both dyes readily identify functional efflux and are capable of detecting small levels of efflux as well as defining the type of multidrug resistance. The assay can be applied to the screening of putative modulators of ABC transporters, facilitating rapid, reproducible, specific and relatively simple functional detection of ABC transporter activity, and ready implementation on widely available instruments.

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