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Mol Pharm. 2013 Jun 3;10(6):2323-30. doi: 10.1021/mp300668e. Epub 2013 May 2.

Dose-dependent targeted suppression of P-glycoprotein expression and function in Caco-2 cells.

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Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of British Columbia, 2405 Wesbrook Mall, Vancouver V6T 1Z3, British Columbia, Canada.


The efflux transporter P-glycoprotein (Pgp), encoded by the ABCB1 gene, decreases the bioavailability of a wide range of orally administered drugs. Drug permeability studies using the in vitro Caco-2 cell model commonly rely on small molecule modulators to estimate the contribution of Pgp to drug efflux. The use of such modulators may be limited by their interactions with other membrane transporters. RNA interference, a tool allowing for the specific degradation of a target gene's mRNA, has emerged as a technique to study gene expression and function. This manuscript describes the use of chemically modified small interfering RNA (siRNA) for a dose-dependent suppression of ABCB1 in Caco-2 cells and the subsequent drug permeability assay. We transfected Caco-2 cells while in suspension with chemically modified synthetic siRNA-lipid complexes and then seeded the cells on polycarbonate semipermeable supports. Once the monolayer of Caco-2 cells formed tight junctions and expressed brush border enzymes, we determined the dose-dependent suppression of the ABCB1 gene using RT-qPCR. We measured the duration of silencing at the optimal siRNA dose by Western blot for Pgp protein. The utility of this in vitro model was determined by performing bidirectional transport studies using a well-established substrate for Pgp, rhodamine 123. A single 4 h transfection of the Caco-2 cells with ≥100 nM siRNA reduced the expression of ABCB1 mRNA by >85% at day five in culture. The time-course study revealed that the single transfection reduces Pgp protein levels for 9 days in culture. This magnitude of silencing was sufficient to reduce the efflux of rhodamine 123 as measured by the apparent permeability coefficient and intracellular accumulation. In this study, we demonstrate the dose-dependent, targeted degradation of Pgp in Caco-2 cells as a new model for assessing drug efflux from enterocytes. The dose-dependent nature of the Pgp silencing in this study offers significant improvements over other approaches to creating a Caco-2 model with suppressed ABCB1 expression. We envision that this technique, in conjunction with better small molecule inhibitors, will provide a useful tool for future drug permeability studies.

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