Purpose: Multidrug resistance protein 1 (MDR1) is located at the interface between two syncytiotrophoblast layers in rodent placenta, and may influence fetal drug distribution. Here, we quantitatively compare the functional impact per single MDR1 molecule of MDR1 at the placental barrier and blood-brain barrier in mice. Methods: MDR1A and MDR1B proteins were quantified by liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS). Paclitaxel or digoxin was continuously administered to pregnant Mdr1a−/−/Mdr1b−/− or wild-type mice, and the drug concentrations in the maternal and fetal plasma and maternal brain were quantified by LC-MS/MS. Results: MDR1A and MDR1B proteins are expressed in the membrane of mouse placental labyrinth, and total MDR1 at the placental barrier amounts to about 30% of that at the blood-brain barrier. The fetal-to-maternal plasma concentration ratio of digoxin was only marginally affected in Mdr1a−/−/Mdr1b−/− mice, while that of paclitaxel showed a several-fold increase. No such difference between the two drugs was found in the maternal brain distribution. The impact per single MDR1 molecule on the fetal distribution of digoxin was calculated to be much lower than that on the brain distribution, but this was not the case for paclitaxel. Our pharmacokinetic model indicates that the impact of placental MDR1 is inversely correlated to the ratio of permeability through gap junctions connecting the two syncytiotrophoblast layers to passive diffusion permeability. Conclusion: Our findings indicate that murine placental MDR1 has a minimal influence on the fetal concentration of certain substrates, such as digoxin, due to bypass transfer, probably via connexin26 gap junctions.
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