Applications of high throughput microsomal stability assay in drug discovery

Comb Chem High Throughput Screen. 2008 Jul;11(6):469-76. doi: 10.2174/138620708784911429.


High throughput in vitro microsomal stability assays are widely used in drug discovery as an indicator for in vivo stability, which affects pharmacokinetics. This is based on in-depth research involving a limited number of model drug-like compounds that are cleared predominantly by cytochrome P450 metabolism. However, drug discovery compounds are often not drug-like, are assessed with high throughput assays, and have many potential uncharacterized in vivo clearance mechanisms. Therefore, it is important to determine the correlation between high throughput in vitro microsomal stability data and abbreviated discovery in vivo pharmacokinetics study data for a set of drug discovery compounds in order to have evidence for how the in vitro assay can be reliably applied by discovery teams for making critical decisions. In this study the relationship between in vitro single time point high throughput microsomal stability and in vivo clearance from abbreviated drug discovery pharmacokinetics studies was examined using 306 real world drug discovery compounds. The results showed that in vitro Phase I microsomal stability t(1/2) is significantly correlated to in vivo clearance with a p-value<0.001. For compounds with low in vitro rat microsomal stability (t(1/2)<15 min), 87% showed high clearance in vivo (CL>25 mL/min/kg). This demonstrates that high throughput microsomal stability data are very effective in identifying compounds with significant clearance liabilities in vivo. For compounds with high in vitro rat microsomal stability (t(1/2)>15 min), no significant differentiation was observed between high and low clearance compounds. This is likely owing to other clearance pathways, in addition to cytochrome P450 metabolism that enhances in vivo clearance. This finding supports the strategy used by medicinal chemists and drug discovery teams of applying the in vitro data to triage compounds for in vivo PK and efficacy studies and guide structural modification to improve metabolic stability. When in vitro and in vivo data are both available for a compound, potential in vivo clearance pathways can be diagnosed to guide further discovery studies.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Drug Evaluation, Preclinical
  • Male
  • Microsomes / drug effects*
  • Microsomes / metabolism*
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations / blood
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley


  • Pharmaceutical Preparations