Background and aims: Ezetimibe is an inhibitor of the cholesterol uptake transporter Niemann-Pick C1-like protein (NPC1L1). Target concentrations can be influenced by intestinal uridine diphosphate-glucuronosyltransferases (UGTs) and the efflux transporters P-glycoprotein (P-gp) (ABCB1) and multidrug resistance associated protein 2 (MRP2) (ABCC2). This study evaluates the contribution of these factors to the disposition and cholesterol-lowering effect of ezetimibe before and after induction of UGT1A1, P-gp, and MRP2 with rifampin (INN, rifampicin).
Methods: Serum concentrations of ezetimibe, as well as its glucuronide, and the plant sterols campesterol and sitosterol (surrogate for cholesterol absorption) were studied in 12 healthy subjects before and after rifampin comedication. In parallel, duodenal expression of UGT1A1, P-gp, MRP2, and NPC1L1 was quantified by use of real-time reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction and quantitative immunohistochemical evaluation. The affinity of ezetimibe and its glucuronide to P-gp and MRP2 was assessed in P-gp- overexpressing Madin-Darby canine kidney II cells and P-gp-containing or MRP2-containing inside-out vesicles.
Results: Up-regulation of intestinal P-gp, MRP2, and UGT1A1 (but not of NPC1L1) by rifampin was associated with markedly decreased areas under the curve of ezetimibe and its glucuronide (116 +/- 78.1 ng.h/mL versus 49.9 +/- 31.0 ng.h/mL and 635 +/- 302 ng.h/mL versus 225 +/- 86.4 ng.h/mL, respectively; both P = .002) and increased intestinal clearances (2400 +/- 1560 mL/min versus 5500 +/- 4610 mL/min [P = .003] and 76.6 +/- 113 mL/min versus 316 +/- 457 mL/min [P = .010], respectively) and nearly abolished sterol-lowering effects. Intestinal expression of UGT1A1, ABCB1, and ABCC2 was inversely correlated with the effects of ezetimibe on plant sterol serum concentrations. Parallel in vitro studies confirmed that ezetimibe glucuronide is a high-affinity substrate of MRP2 and has a low affinity to P-gp whereas ezetimibe interacts with P-gp and MRP2.
Conclusions: The disposition and sterol-lowering effects of ezetimibe are modified by metabolic degradation of the drug via intestinal UGT1A1 and either intestinal or hepatic secretion (or both) via P-gp and MRP2.