Piperine modulates permeability characteristics of intestine by inducing alterations in membrane dynamics: influence on brush border membrane fluidity, ultrastructure and enzyme kinetics

Phytomedicine. 2002 Apr;9(3):224-31. doi: 10.1078/0944-7113-00114.


Piperine (1-Piperoyl piperidine) is a major alkaloid of Piper nigrum Linn. and Piper longum Linn. It is shown to possess bioavailability-enhancing activity with various structurally and therapeutically diverse drugs. The mechanism of enhancing the bioavailability, is, however, not understood. We hypothesize that piperine's bioavailability-enhancing property may be attributed to increased absorption, which may be due to alteration in membrane lipid dynamics and change in the conformation of enzymes in the intestine. Results of membrane fluidity studies using an apolar fluorescent probe, pyrene (which measures the fluid properties of hydrocarbon core), showed an increase in intestinal brush border membrane (BBM) fluidity. Piperine also stimulated Leucine amino peptidase and Glycyl-glycine dipeptidase activity, due to the alteration in enzyme kinetics. This suggests that piperine could modulate the membrane dynamics due to its apolar nature by interacting with surrounding lipids and hydrophobic portions in the protein vicinity, which may decrease the tendency of membrane lipids to act as stearic constrains to enzyme proteins and thus modify enzyme conformation. Ultra structural studies with piperine showed an increase in microvilli length with a prominent increase in free ribosomes and ribosomes on the endoplasmic reticulum in enterocytes, suggesting that synthesis or turnover of cytoskeletal components or membrane proteins may be involved in the observed effect. In conclusion, it is suggested that piperine may be inducing alterations in membrane dynamics and permeation characteristics, along with induction in the synthesis of proteins associated with cytoskeletal function, resulting in an increase in the small intestine absorptive surface, thus assisting efficient permeation through the epithelial barrier.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alkaloids*
  • Animals
  • Benzodioxoles
  • Biological Availability
  • Dipeptidases / drug effects
  • Drug Synergism
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / pharmacokinetics
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Intestinal Mucosa / cytology
  • Intestinal Mucosa / drug effects*
  • Intestinal Mucosa / enzymology
  • Intestinal Mucosa / physiology
  • Intestinal Mucosa / ultrastructure
  • Jejunum / cytology
  • Jejunum / drug effects
  • Jejunum / enzymology
  • Jejunum / physiology
  • Jejunum / ultrastructure
  • Leucyl Aminopeptidase / drug effects
  • Male
  • Membrane Fluidity / drug effects
  • Membrane Fluidity / physiology
  • Microvilli / drug effects*
  • Microvilli / enzymology
  • Microvilli / physiology
  • Microvilli / ultrastructure
  • Phytotherapy*
  • Piper*
  • Piperidines / pharmacokinetics
  • Piperidines / pharmacology*
  • Polyunsaturated Alkamides
  • Rats


  • Alkaloids
  • Benzodioxoles
  • Enzyme Inhibitors
  • Piperidines
  • Polyunsaturated Alkamides
  • Leucyl Aminopeptidase
  • Dipeptidases
  • cytosol non-specific dipeptidase
  • piperine