Towards a fully mechanistic prediction of oral drug absorption: Investigating intestinal transporter abundance and function relationships

UoM administered thesis: Phd

  • Authors:
  • Matthew Harwood


Background: Elucidating the role of intestinal drug transporter function in drug development is crucial, as transporter proteins can impact on drug absorption, efficacy and adverse events. In Vitro-In Vivo Extrapolation linked to Physiologically-Based Pharmacokinetic (IVIVE-PBPK) models aim to predict the in vivo impact of transporters from in vitro cell-based transport data and expression-based scaling factors. Currently, these models depend on relative measurements of transporter expression i.e., mRNA or immunoblotting. There is a critical need for physiologically relevant measures of transporter protein abundance to populate these biological frameworks.Objectives: The key objectives were to develop and validate a targeted proteomics workflow to quantify transporter protein abundances in human enterocytes and Caco-2 cells with a QconCAT technique. A cross-laboratory comparison on matched samples was also performed to assess between-laboratory bias in abundance determination. Together with abundance data from each laboratory, BCRP and P-gp transporter activities from Caco-2 cells were used to identify function-abundance relationships, to facilitate the potential development of abundance-function scaling factors.Results: Development of a differential centrifugation technique to obtain plasma membranes was undertaken using MDCK-II and Caco-2 cells. The plasma membrane fraction showed little enrichment from the preceding total membrane fraction and was contaminated with endoplasmic reticulum, as assessed by marker enzyme activities. There were also no differences in Na/K-ATPase, BCRP and P-gp abundances between plasma and total membrane fractions in Caco-2 cells. This may be due to losses of protein from the target membrane fraction, thus, a theoretical framework combining protein assay (BCA) and transporter abundance determinations was proposed. Pilot data on the generation of recovery correction factors using Villin and Na/K-ATPase abundances, to account for protein losses is also presented. The abundances of 6 transporters in jejunal enterocyte membranes (n=3), including the key efflux proteins BCRP (2.56±0.82 fmol/μg), P-gp (1.89±1.07 fmol/μg) and MRP2 (0.59±0.246 fmol/μg) were determined with precision. In addition, peptide losses during protein digestion stages were accounted for in abundance determinations.A cross laboratory comparison of transporter abundances from intestinal (n=4) and Caco-2 cells (n=7) measured in our laboratory and Bertin Pharma (BPh), showed that P-gp abundances were highly correlated (rs=0.72), yet BPh abundances were systematically lower than determined in our laboratory (2.0±2.08 versus. 4.8±3.51 fmol/μg, respectively). No differences or correlations were found for Na/K-ATPase and BCRP abundances between laboratories. A jejunal-Caco-2 cell relative expression factor (REF) for each protein for both laboratories was generated. The P-gp REF was similar for BPh and our laboratory (0.37 vs. 0.4, respectively) however, for BCRP there was a distinct difference (1.11 versus 2.22, respectively). These findings provide the first evidence that employing expression factors generated from abundances quantified in different laboratories may produce altered IVIVE-PBPK outcomes. Functional studies in Caco-2 cells using E-3-S and vinblastine as probes for BCRP and P-gp, respectively, show that protein abundance is more closely correlated to transporter activity than mRNA expression. In addition, it was only possible to verify that increasing P-gp abundances in Caco-2 cells were ranked alongside vinblastine intrinsic clearance, as there was little consistency when estimating Km between the different Caco-2 cell models expressing increasing P-gp abundances, which may be attributed to limited absorptive transport saturation. Thus, forming any conclusions with confidence on concentration dependent abundance-activity relationships was difficult. These data suggest the value of REF scaling factors based on protein abundances, but emphasises the need to generate these from both in vitro and in vivo samples, using the same proteomic workflow. Further work to verify abundance-function relationships is required.Conclusion: A targeted proteomic workflow has been developed allowing quantification of protein abundances for key drug transporters in human gut tissues and cell models. The study has highlighted important areas including losses of targeted proteins, contamination of plasma membrane fractions and standardisation between laboratories that need to be addressed before implementation of transporter abundances into PBPK models is undertaken. Nevertheless, the evidence for a close relationship between transporter abundance and function indicate the potential value of this data for generation of robust REF scaling factors.


Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Geoffrey Warhurst (Supervisor)
  • Gordon Carlson (Supervisor)
Award date1 Aug 2015