P-Glycoprotein, the plasma membrane protein responsible for the multidrug resistance of some tumour cells, is an active transporter of a number of structurally unrelated hydrophobic drugs. We have characterized the modulation of its ATPase activity by a multidrug-resistance-related cytotoxic drug, vinblastine, and different multidrug-resistance-reversing agents, verapamil and the dihydropyridines nicardipine, nimodipine, nitrendipine, nifedipine and azidopine. P-Glycoprotein ATPase activity was measured by using native membrane vesicles containing large amounts of P-glycoprotein, prepared from the highly multidrug-resistant lung fibroblasts DC-3F/ADX. P-Glycoprotein ATPase is activated by verapamil and by nicardipine but not by vinblastine. Among the five dihydropyridines tested, the higher the hydrophobicity, the higher was the activation factor with respect to the basal activity and the lower was the half-maximal activating concentration. The vinblastine-specific binding on P-glycoprotein is reported by the inhibitions of the verapamil- and the nicardipine-stimulated ATPase. These inhibitions are purely competitive, which means that the bindings of vinblastine and verapamil, or vinblastine and nicardipine, on P-glycoprotein are mutually exclusive. In contrast, verapamil and nicardipine display mutually non-competitive interactions. This demonstrates the existence of two distinct specific sites for these two P-glycoprotein modulators on which they can bind simultaneously and separately to the vinblastine site. The nicardipine-stimulated ATPase activity in the presence of the other dihydropyridines shows mixed-type inhibitions. These dihydropyridines have thus different binding sites that interact mutually to decrease their respective, separately determined affinities. This could be due to steric constraints between sites close to each other. This is supported by the observation that vinblastine binding is not mutually exclusive with nifedipine or nitrendipine binding, whereas it is mutually exclusive with nicardipine. Moreover, verapamil binding also interacts with the five dihydropyridines by mixed inhibitions, with different destabilization factors. On the whole our enzymic data show that P-glycoprotein has distinct but interacting binding sites for various modulators of its ATPase function.

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