Active secretion and enterocytic drug metabolism barriers to drug absorption

Adv Drug Deliv Rev. 2001 Mar 1;46(1-3):89-102. doi: 10.1016/s0169-409x(00)00126-5.


Intestinal phase I metabolism and active extrusion of absorbed drug have only recently been recognized as major determinants of oral drug bioavailability. Both CYP3A4, the major phase I drug metabolizing enzyme in humans, and the multidrug efflux pump, P-glycoprotein (P-gp), are present at high levels in the villus enterocytes of the small intestine, the primary site of absorption for orally administered drugs. Moreover, these proteins are induced by many of the same compounds and demonstrate a broad overlap in substrate and inhibitor specificities, suggesting that they act as a concerted barrier to drug absorption. Clinical studies have demonstrated that inhibition of CYP3A4-mediated intestinal metabolism can significantly improve the oral bioavailability of a wide range of drugs. Intestinal P-gp is a major route of elimination for both orally and intravenously administered anticancer drugs in animal models, and experiments with the Caco-2 cell line have provided strong evidence that inhibition of intestinal P-gp is another means by which oral drug bioavailability could be enhanced.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • ATP Binding Cassette Transporter, Subfamily B, Member 1 / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Biological Availability
  • Diet
  • Enterocytes / enzymology
  • Enterocytes / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Intestinal Absorption / physiology*
  • Intestines / enzymology
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations / chemistry
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations / metabolism*


  • ATP Binding Cassette Transporter, Subfamily B, Member 1
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations