We have generated mice homozygous for a disruption of the mdr1a (also called mdr3) gene, encoding a drug-transporting P-glycoprotein. The mice were viable and fertile and appeared phenotypically normal, but they displayed an increased sensitivity to the centrally neurotoxic pesticide ivermectin (100-fold) and to the carcinostatic drug vinblastine (3-fold). By comparison of mdr1a (+/+) and (-/-) mice, we found that the mdr1a P-glycoprotein is the major P-glycoprotein in the blood-brain barrier and that its absence results in elevated drug levels in many tissues (especially in brain) and in decreased drug elimination. Our findings explain some of the side effects in patients treated with a combination of carcinostatics and P-glycoprotein inhibitors and indicate that these inhibitors might be useful in selectively enhancing the access of a range of drugs to the brain.
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