Propranolol disposition in the rat: variation in hepatic extraction with unbound drug fraction

J Pharm Sci. 1992 Mar;81(3):255-8. doi: 10.1002/jps.2600810314.


The plasma protein binding of propranolol has been described as nonrestrictive for its hepatic extraction to explain the observation that propranolol is efficiently removed by the liver, in spite of extensive protein binding. The present study was designed to examine the relationship between propranolol protein binding, metabolism by isolated hepatocytes, and extraction by the isolated perfused rat liver. In isolated hepatocytes, the intrinsic clearance of free drug increased three- to fourfold as albumin and alpha 1-acid glycoprotein (AAG) concentrations increased, suggesting that albumin and AAG facilitate the elimination of propranolol by hepatocytes. In the isolated perfused liver, propranolol extraction was almost complete (E = 0.996) in the absence of albumin and AAG. With 40 g/L of albumin and 2 g/L of AAG in the perfusate, the free fraction of propranolol decreased to 0.031, but extraction remained high (E = 0.960). With 40 g/L of albumin and 10 g/L of AAG in the perfusate, the free fraction further decreased to 0.014 and extraction dropped sharply (E = 0.820). The observed relationship between propranolol extraction and the free fraction of propranolol was in good agreement with that predicted using estimates of intrinsic clearance measured in isolated hepatocytes suspensions. These data indicate that propranolol extraction is sensitive to changes in binding at very low free fraction values and suggest a facilitation of propranolol clearance by albumin and AAG.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blood Proteins / metabolism
  • Erythrocytes / metabolism
  • Genetic Variation / physiology
  • Liver / chemistry
  • Liver / cytology
  • Liver / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Perfusion
  • Propranolol / analysis
  • Propranolol / blood
  • Propranolol / pharmacokinetics*
  • Protein Binding
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred Strains


  • Blood Proteins
  • Propranolol