The transport of organic cations in the small intestine: current knowledge and emerging concepts

Arch Pharm Res. 2006 Jul;29(7):605-16. doi: 10.1007/BF02969273.


A wide variety of drugs and endogenous bioactive amines are organic cations (OCs). Approximately 40% of all conventional drugs on the market are OCs. Thus, the transport of xenobiotics or endogenous OCs in the body has been a subject of considerable interest, since the discovery and cloning of a family of OC transporters, referred to as organic cation transporter (OCTs), and a new subfamily of OCTs, OCTNs, leading to the functional characterization of these transporters in various systems including oocytes and some cell lines. Organic cation transporters are critical in drug absorption, targeting, and disposition of a drug. In this review, the recent advances in the characterization of organic cation transporters and their distribution in the small intestine are discussed. The results of the in vitro transport studies of various OCs in the small intestine using techniques such as isolated brush-border membrane vesicles, Ussing chamber systems and Caco-2 cells are discussed, and in vivo knock-out animal studies are summarized. Such information is essential for predicting pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics and in the design and development of new cationic drugs. An understanding of the mechanisms that control the intestinal transport of OCs will clearly aid achieving desirable clinical outcomes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cations
  • Choline / chemistry
  • Choline / metabolism*
  • Guanidine / chemistry
  • Guanidine / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Intestine, Small / metabolism*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Nicotine / chemistry
  • Nicotine / metabolism*
  • Organic Cation Transport Proteins / genetics
  • Organic Cation Transport Proteins / metabolism*


  • Cations
  • Organic Cation Transport Proteins
  • Nicotine
  • Guanidine
  • Choline