Intracellular drug bioavailability: a new predictor of system dependent drug disposition
Intracellular drug exposure is influenced by cell- and tissue-dependent expression of drug-transporting proteins and metabolizing enzymes. Here, we introduce the concept of intracellular bioavailability (Fic) as the fraction of extracellular drug available to bind intracellular targets, and we assess how Fic is affected by cellular drug disposition processes. We first investigated the impact of two essential drug transporters separately, one influx transporter (OATP1B1; SLCO1B1) and one efflux transporter (P-gp; ABCB1), in cells overexpressing these proteins. We showed that OATP1B1 increased Fic of its substrates, while P-gp decreased Fic. We then investigated the impact of the concerted action of multiple transporters and metabolizing enzymes in freshly-isolated human hepatocytes in culture configurations with different levels of expression and activity of these proteins. We observed that Fic was up to 35-fold lower in the configuration with high expression of drug-eliminating transporters and enzymes. We conclude that Fic provides a measurement of the net impact of all cellular drug disposition processes on intracellular bioavailable drug levels. Importantly, no prior knowledge of the involved drug distribution pathways is required, allowing for high-throughput determination of drug access to intracellular targets in highly defined cell systems (e.g., single-transporter transfectants) or in complex ones (including primary human cells).