Human multidrug-resistance protein (MRP) 4 transports cyclic nucleotides and when overproduced in mammalian cells mediates resistance to some nucleoside analogues. Recently, it has been shown that Mrp4 is induced in the livers of Fxr(-/-) mice, which have increased levels of serum bile acids. Since MRP4, like MRP1–3, also mediates transport of a model steroid conjugate substrate, oestradiol 17-β-d-glucuronide (E217βG), we tested whether MRP4 may be involved in the transport of steroid and bile acid conjugates. Bile salts, especially sulphated derivatives, and cholestatic oestrogens inhibited the MRP4-mediated transport of E217βG. Inhibition by oestradiol 3,17-disulphate and taurolithocholate 3-sulphate was competitive, suggesting that these compounds are MRP4 substrates. Furthermore, we found that MRP4 transports dehydroepiandrosterone 3-sulphate (DHEAS), the most abundant circulating steroid in humans, which is made in the adrenal gland. The ATP-dependent transport of DHEAS by MRP4 showed saturable kinetics with Km and Vmax values of 2μM and 45pmol/mg per min, respectively (at 27°C). We further studied the possible involvement of other members of the MRP family of transporters in the transport of DHEAS. We found that MRP1 transports DHEAS in a glutathione-dependent manner and exhibits Km and Vmax values of 5μM and 73pmol/mg per min, respectively (at 27°C). No transport of DHEAS was observed in membrane vesicles containing MRP2 or MRP3. Our findings suggest a physiological role for MRP1 and MRP4 in DHEAS transport and an involvement of MRP4 in transport of conjugated steroids and bile acids.

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