Transporters involved in the elimination of drugs in the kidney: organic anion transporters and organic cation transporters

J Pharm Sci. 2001 Apr;90(4):397-421. doi: 10.1002/1520-6017(200104)90:4<397::aid-jps1000>;2-d.


Transporters in the kidney mediate the secretion or reabsorption of many compounds and thereby influence the plasma levels of their substrates. Organic anion transporters and organic cation transporters are two major classes of secretory transporters in the mammalian kidney. During the past decade, significant progress has been made in the cloning, functional expression, and initial characterization of these transporters. To date, five organic cation transporters and nine organic anion transporters have been cloned. In this review, we summarize the available data on organic anion and organic cation transporters, focusing in particular on their molecular characteristics, tissue distribution, and inhibitor and substrate selectivities. Currently we have a good understanding of the inhibitor selectivities for most of these transporters, and with the development of more robust assays, we will soon have a better understanding of their substrate selectivities. Based on the available data, summarized in this review, it appears that many compounds interact with multiple transporters. Furthermore, there appears to be substantial overlap in the selectivities of organic cation transporters, and the same appears true for organic anion transporters. At the present time, it is unclear what the roles of these multiple transporters are in renal drug elimination. With the development of new assays, reagents, and experimental methods, we will soon have a better understanding of the roles of each transporter isoform in the renal elimination of drugs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anions
  • Carrier Proteins / metabolism*
  • Cations
  • Humans
  • Kidney / metabolism*
  • Pharmacokinetics*


  • Anions
  • Carrier Proteins
  • Cations