Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation





First Advisor

Dr. Mary Vore


ATP-binding cassette (ABC) transporters are transmembrane proteins that transport a wide variety of substrates across intra and extra-cellular membranes. A few examples of endo and xenobiotic substrates are metabolic products, lipids, sterols, and drugs. An important function of ABC transporters involved in export is to prevent intracellular the buildup of toxic products. Several ABC transporters have also been associated with drug resistance upon treatment with chemotherapeutic agents. P-glycoprotein (P-GP) and the multidrug resistant (MRP) transporters of the ABC C family are examples of transporters that confer chemo-resistance.

We have studied two unique roles of ABC transporters in the liver and the heart. In the liver, maintenance of bile secretion is important during lactation to ensure proper absorption of nutrients for the offspring. Three main ABC transporters are involved in this process: ABCB11 (transports bile acids), ABCB4 (transporters phospholipids), and ABCG5/ABCG8 (transports cholesterol). In the rat, expression of ABCB11 remains the same as the size of the bile acid pool increases. However, the expression of ABCG5/ABCG8 is abolished, preventing excessive export and loss of cholesterol from the liver. The regulation of these transporters during lactation maintains the production of bile acids from cholesterol by decreasing export while preventing toxicity from bile acids by maintaining bile flow.

Another protective role of ABC transporters is seen in oxidative stress-induced toxicity of cardiac tissue following treatment with Doxorubicin (DOX), a drug used in cancer treatment. Multidrug resistance protein 1 (Mrp1) can transport toxic products by conjugation with sulfate, glutathione (GSH) or glucuronide. In Mrp1-/- mice, DOX causes advanced cell damage through intracellular edema and increased apoptotic nuclei. However, P-glycoprotein expression increases upon DOX treatment, potentially compensating for the loss of Mrp1. Mrp1 can also transport GSH, GSH disulfide (GSSG), and products of oxidation, like GSH conjugates. In the absence of Mrp1, GSH levels are increased in the heart, providing protection against oxidative stress.

Both of these examples in liver and heart show the diversity of ABC transporters and the role they play in preventing cell toxicity. These studies also provide insight into ways to prevent cell toxicity through manipulation of ABC transport proteins.