Are MDCK cells transfected with the human MDR1 gene a good model of the human intestinal mucosa?

Pharm Res. 2002 Jun;19(6):765-72. doi: 10.1023/a:1016140429238.


Purpose: To investigate whether Madin-Darby canine kidney cells transfected with the human MDR1 gene (MDCK-MDR1) are a good model of the human intestinal mucosa.

Methods: P-glycoprotein (P-gp) expression in Caco-2 cells was compared with P-gp expression in MDCK wild- type (MDCK-WT) and MDCK-MDR1 cells using Western blotting methods. The polarized efflux activities of P-gp(s) in MDCK-MDRI cells, MDCK-WT cells, and Caco-2 cells were compared using digoxin as a substrate. Apparent Michaelis-Menten constants (K(M),Vmax) for the efflux of vinblastine in these three cell lines were determined. Apparent inhibition constants (K(I)) of known substrates/inhibitors of P-gp were determined by measuring their effects on the efflux of digoxin in Caco-2 or MDCK-MDR1 cell monolayers.

Results: MDCK-MDR1 cells expressed higher levels of P-gp compared to Caco-2 and MDCK-WT cells, as estimated by Western blots. Two isoforms of P-gp were expressed in Caco-2 and MDCK cells migrating with molecular weights of 150 kDa and 170 kDa. In MDCK-MDR1 cells, the 150 kDa isoforms appeared to be overexpressed. The MDCK-MDR1 cells exhibited higher polarized efflux of [3H]-digoxin than did Caco-2 and MDCK-WT cells. K(M) values of vinblastine in Caco-2. MDCK-WT, and MDCK-MDR1 cells were 89.2+/-26.1, 24.5+/-1.1, and 252.8+/-134.7 microM, respectively, whereas Vmax values were 1.77+/-0.22, 0.42+/-0.01, and 2.43+/-0.86 pmolcm(-2)s(-1), respectively. Known P-gp substrates/inhibitors showed, in general, lower K(I) values for inhibition of digoxin efflux in Caco-2 cells than in MDCK-MDR1 cells.

Conclusions: These data suggest that the MDCK-MDR1 cells overexpress the 150 kDa isoform of P-gp. MDCK-MDR1 cells are a useful model for screening the P-gp substrate activity of drugs and drug candidates. However, the apparent kinetics constants and affinities of substrates determined in the MDCK-MDR1 cell model may be different than the values obtained in Caco-2 cells. These differences in substrate activity could result from differences in the relative expression levels of total P-gp in Caco-2 and MDCK-MDR1 cells and/or differences in the partitioning of substrates into these two cell membrane bilayers.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • ATP Binding Cassette Transporter, Subfamily B, Member 1 / biosynthesis
  • Animals
  • Caco-2 Cells / metabolism
  • Cell Line / metabolism*
  • Cell Line / physiology
  • Digoxin / pharmacokinetics
  • Dogs
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Drug Evaluation, Preclinical / methods
  • Genes, MDR / genetics
  • Genes, MDR / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Intestinal Mucosa / metabolism*
  • Transfection / methods*


  • ATP Binding Cassette Transporter, Subfamily B, Member 1
  • Digoxin