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Biochem Pharmacol. 2004 Aug 15;68(4):783-90.

Rapid induction of P-glycoprotein expression by high permeability compounds in colonic cells in vitro: a possible source of transporter mediated drug interactions?

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Gut Barrier Group and Centre for Applied Pharmacokinetic Research, Schools of Medicine and Pharmacy, University of Manchester, Clinical Sciences Building, Hope Hospital, Salford M6 8HD, UK.


P-glycoprotein (PGP) substrates with high membrane permeability, such as propranolol and verapamil, are considered to be essentially "transparent" to PGP since the transporter does not significantly limit their absorption or elimination. However, the question of whether such compounds can modulate PGP expression in epithelial cells following short-term exposure, with potential consequences for drug interactions, has not been addressed. LS180 colonic epithelial cells were exposed to propranolol or verapamil at concentrations (50-300 microM) consistent with those likely to be present in the gut lumen during oral dosing. Both compounds stimulated four to six-fold increases in MDR1 mRNA and PGP protein expression measured by quantitative real-time PCR and immunoblotting, respectively. These changes were accompanied by an induction in transporter activity measured by rhodamine 123 efflux. In contrast, metoprolol, a compound with similar permeability but no affinity for PGP had no effect on PGP expression. The induction of PGP by propranolol and verapamil was rapid with significant increases occurring within 3h with maximal stimulation after 6h exposure. Rifampicin, shown to cause clinical drug interactions via a PXR-mediated increase in PGP expression, exhibited a very similar time-course and extent of induction. In conclusion, verapamil and propranolol, whose trans-epithelial permeability are unaffected by PGP, appear to be effective inducers of PGP expression in gut epithelial cells in vitro. While the in vivo significance of these observations is unknown, this questions whether high permeability, "PGP-transparent" compounds, currently favoured in drug selection strategies, should be evaluated in terms of their potential for transporter-mediated drug interactions.

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