Drug transport and targeting. Intestinal transport

Pharm Biotechnol. 1999:12:59-88. doi: 10.1007/0-306-46812-3_3.


A wide variety of transporters are found in the intestine, and are involved in the membrane transport of daily nutrients as well as drugs. These intestinal transporters are located in the brush border membrane as well as basolateral membrane. Each transporter exhibits its own substrate specificity, and some have broader specificities than others. In addition, the distribution and characteristics of the intestinal transporters exhibit regional differences along the intestine, implying diverse physiologic functions and in some cases pathologic responses. Indeed several genetic disorders have been shown to result from deficient intestinal transporters. The development of prodrugs that target to intestinal transporters has been successful in improving oral absorption. For example, the intestinal peptide transporter is utilized in order to increase the bioavailability of several classes of peptidomimetic drugs, especially ACE inhibitors and beta-lactam antibiotics. The bioavailability of poorly absorbed drugs can be improved by utilization of the transporters responsible for the intestinal absorption of various solutes and/or by inhibiting the transporter involved in the efflux system. Recent advances in gene cloning and molecular biology techniques make it possible to study the characteristics and distribution of transporters at the molecular level. Based on molecular characterizations of membrane transporters and accumulated biochemical data on their specificities and kinetics, structural modification and targeting of a specific transporter is a promising strategy for the design of drugs that improve bioavailability and tissue distribution.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biological Availability
  • Carrier Proteins / drug effects
  • Carrier Proteins / metabolism*
  • Drug Design*
  • Intestinal Diseases / metabolism
  • Intestinal Mucosa / metabolism*
  • Intestines / drug effects
  • Membrane Proteins / drug effects
  • Membrane Proteins / metabolism*
  • Metabolic Diseases / metabolism
  • Prodrugs / metabolism


  • Carrier Proteins
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Prodrugs