Multidrug resistance gene (MDR1) expression in human brain tumors

M. W. Nabors, C. A. Griffin, B. A. Zehnbauer, R. H. Hruban, P. C. Phillips, S. A. Grossman, H. Brem, O. M. Colvin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

64 Scopus citations


Multidrug resistance for many types of cancer outside the central nervous system (CNS) has been found to be due to the overexpression of the multidrug resistance gene MDR1, of which the gene-product P-glycoprotein acts as a membrane-bound efflux pump for many anticancer drugs. To examine whether brain tumors overexpress the MDR1 gene, 25 brain-tumor specimens were subjected to Northern blot analysis: 10 gliomas, eight meningiomas, three schwannomas, one malignant lymphoma, and three tumors metastatic to the brain. Ten fresh-frozen autopsy specimens of various parts of normal brain were also analyzed. Blots were hybridized with 32P-labeled Chinese hamster complementary deoxyribonucleic acid (cDNA) and 32P-labeled human MDR1 cDNA. The MDR1 gene messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) was detected in two tumors using the Chinese hamster probe (one sphenoid wing meningioma and one metastatic prostate tumor) and in one CNS lymphoma using the human probe. Intact mRNA could not be extracted from the fresh-frozen autopsy specimens of normal brain. Seventeen tumors were examined for P-glycoprotein by immunohistochemical staining using murine monoclonal antibody C219: eight gliomas, eight meningiomas, and one craniopharyngioma. The neoplastic cells from two gliomas and three meningiomas and the blood vessels within six gliomas and two meningiomas stained positively for P-glycoprotein. Seven of 10 normal brain specimens stained positively for P-glycoprotein in blood vessels but no specimen demonstrated staining of parenchymal cells. This study demonstrates that the MDR1 gene can be detected in normal brain, and in malignant, benign, and metastatic lesions. P-glycoprotein can be present in tumor blood vessels even when it is not seen in neoplastic cells. Although the role of P-glycoprotein in tumor blood vessels needs to be further examined and more clearly defined, drug resistance in malignant primary brain tumors may result from characteristics not solely of neoplastic cells but also tumor vasculature.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)941-946
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of neurosurgery
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1991


  • brain neoplasm
  • chemotherapy
  • drug resistance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Clinical Neurology


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