Fluorimetric methods for analysis of permeability, drug transport kinetics, and inhibition of the ABCB1 membrane transporter

Ana Armada, Célia Maria da Silva Martins, Gabriella Spengler, Joseph Molnar, Leonard Amaral, António Sebastião Rodrigues, Miguel Viveiros

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


The cell membrane P-glycoprotein (P-gp; MDR1, ABCB1) is an energy-dependent efflux pump that belongs to the ATP-binding cassette (ABC) family of transporters, and has been associated with drug resistance in eukaryotic cells. Multidrug resistance (MDR) is related to an increased expression and function of the ABCB1 (P-gp) efflux pump that often causes chemotherapeutic failure in cancer. Modulators of this efflux pump, such as the calcium channel blocker verapamil (VP) and cyclosporine A (CypA), can reverse the MDR phenotype but in vivo studies have revealed disappointing results due to adverse side effects. Currently available methods are unable to visualize and assess in a real-time basis the effectiveness of ABCB1 inhibitors on the uptake and efflux of ABCB1 substrates. However, predicting and testing ABCB1 modulation activity using living cells during drug development are crucial. The use of ABCB1-transfected mouse T-lymphoma cell line to study the uptake/efflux of fluorescent probes like ethidium bromide (EB), rhodamine 123 (Rh-123), and carbocyanine dye DiOC2, in the presence and absence of potential inhibitors, is currently used in our laboratories to evaluate the ability of a drug to inhibit ABCB1-mediateddrug accumulation and efflux. Here we describe and compare three in vitro methods, which evaluate the permeability, transport kinetics of fluorescent substrates, and inhibition of the ABCB1 efflux pump by drugs of chemical synthesis or extracted from natural sources, using model cancer cell lines overexpressing this transporter, namely (1) real-time fluorimetry that assesses the accumulation of ethidium bromide, (2) flow cytometry, and (3) fluorescent microscopy using rhodamine 123 and DiOC2.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)87-103
Number of pages17
JournalMethods in Molecular Biology
Publication statusPublished - May 2016


  • ABCB1
  • Flow cytometry
  • MDR
  • MDR1
  • Real-time fluorimetry


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