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Mol Pharm. 2015 Aug 3;12(8):2633-41. doi: 10.1021/mp500854e. Epub 2015 Mar 18.

Beta-2 Adrenergic Agonists Are Substrates and Inhibitors of Human Organic Cation Transporter 1.

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†School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences and Trinity Biomedical Sciences Institute, Trinity College Dublin, Dublin 2, Ireland.
‡Zentrum für Physiologie und Pathophysiologie, Georg-August-Universität, 37073 Göttingen, Germany.
§PortaCellTec Biosciences GmbH, 37073 Göttingen, Germany.
∥Graduate School of Medicine and Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of Toyama, 930-0887 Toyama, Japan.


Beta-2-adrenergic agonists are first line therapeutics in the treatment of asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Upon inhalation, bronchodilation is achieved after binding to β2-receptors, which are primarily localized on airway smooth muscle cells. Given that β2-adrenergic agonists chemically are bases, they carry net positive charge at physiologic pH value in the lungs (i.e., pH 7.4). Here, we studied whether β2-agonists interact with organic cation transporters (OCT) and whether this interaction exerted an influence on their passage across the respiratory epithelium to their target receptors. [14C]-TEA uptake into proximal (i.e., Calu-3) and distal (i.e., A549 and NCI-H441) lung epithelial cells was significantly reduced in the presence of salbutamol sulfate, formoterol fumarate, and salmeterol xinafoate in vitro. Expression of all five members of the OCT/N family has been confirmed in human pulmonary epithelial cells in situ and in vitro, which makes the identification of the transporter(s) responsible for the β2-agonist interaction challenging. Thus, additional experiments were carried out in HEK-293 cells transfected with hOCT1-3. The most pronounced inhibition of organic cation uptake by β2-agonists was observed in hOCT1 overexpressing HEK-293 cells. hOCT3 transfected HEK-293 cells were affected to a lesser extent, and in hOCT2 transfectants only marginal inhibition of organic cation uptake by β2-agonists was observed. Bidirectional transport studies across confluent NCI-H441 cell monolayers revealed a net absorptive transport of [3H]-salbutamol, which was sensitive to inhibition by the OCT1 modulator, verapamil. Accordingly, salbutamol uptake into hOCT1 overexpressing HEK-293 cells was time- and concentration-dependent and could be completely blocked by decynium-22. Taken together, our data suggest that β2-agonists are specific substrates and inhibitors of OCT1 in human respiratory epithelial cells and that this transporter might play a role in the pulmonary disposition of drugs of this class.


bronchodilators; competitive inhibition; inhalation biopharmaceutics; pulmonary drug disposition; respiratory epithelium

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