Effects of renal failure on drug transport and metabolism

Pharmacol Ther. 2006 Jan;109(1-2):1-11. doi: 10.1016/j.pharmthera.2005.05.010. Epub 2005 Aug 8.


Renal failure not only alters the renal elimination, but also the non-renal disposition of drugs that are extensively metabolized by the liver. Although reduced metabolic enzyme activity in some cases can be responsible for the reduced drug clearance, alterations in the transporter systems may also be involved in the process. With the development of renal failure, the renal secretion of organic ions mediated by organic anion transporters (OATs) and organic cation transporters (OCTs) is decreased. 3-Carboxy-4-methyl-5-propyl-2-furanpropanoic acid (CMPF) and other organic anionic uremic toxins may directly inhibit the renal excretion of various drugs and endogenous organic acids by competitively inhibiting OATs. In addition, the expression of OAT1 and OCT2 was reduced in chronic renal failure (CRF) rats. Renal failure also impairs the liver uptake of drugs and organic anions, such as bromosulphophthalein (BSP), indocyanine green (ICG), and thyroxine, where organic anion transport polypeptides (OATPs) are the major transporters. Most previous studies have been done in animals or cell culture, very often in rat models, but these are presumed to reflect the presentation of advanced renal disease in humans as well. Recent studies demonstrate that the uremic toxins CMPF and indoxyl sulfate (IS) can directly inhibit rOatp2 and hOATP-C in hepatocytes. The protein content of the liver uptake transporters Oatp1, 2, and 4 were significantly decreased in CRF rats. Decreased activity of the intestinal efflux transporter, P-glycoprotein (P-gp), was also observed in CRF rats, with no significant change of protein content, suggesting that uremic toxins may suppress P-gp function. However, increased protein levels of multidrug resistance-associated protein (MRP) 2 in the kidney and MRP3 in the liver were found in CRF rats, suggesting an adaptive response that may serve as a protective mechanism. Increases in drug areas under the curve (AUCs) in subjects with advanced renal disease for drugs that are not renally excreted are consistent with uremic toxin effects on either intestinal or hepatic cell transporters, metabolizing enzymes, or both. In conclusion, alterations of drug transporters, as well as metabolic enzymes, in patients with renal failure can be responsible for reduced drug clearance.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Transport, Active
  • Carrier Proteins / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Liver / metabolism
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations / metabolism*
  • Renal Insufficiency / metabolism*


  • Carrier Proteins
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations