Effects of drug transporters on volume of distribution

AAPS J. 2009 Jun;11(2):250-61. doi: 10.1208/s12248-009-9102-7. Epub 2009 Apr 28.


Recently, drug transporters have emerged as significant modifiers of a patient's pharmacokinetics. In cases where the functioning of drug transporters is altered, such as by drug-drug interactions, by genetic polymorphisms, or as evidenced in knockout animals, the resulting change in volume of distribution can lead to a significant change in drug effect or likelihood of toxicity, as well as a change in half life independent of a change in clearance. Here, we review pharmacokinetic interactions at the transporter level that have been investigated in animals and humans and reported in literature, with a focus on the changes in distribution volume. We pay particular attention to the differing effects of changes in transporter function on the three measures of volume. Further, trends are discussed as they may be used to predict volume changes given the function of a transporter and the primary location of the interaction. Because the liver and kidneys express the greatest level and variety of transporters, we denote these organs as the primary location of transporter-based interactions. We conclude that the liver is a larger contributor to distribution volume than the kidneys, in consideration of both uptake and efflux transporters. Further, while altered distribution due to secondary interactions at tissues other than the liver and kidneys may have a pharmacodynamic effect, these interactions, at least at the blood-brain barrier, do not appear to significantly influence overall distribution volume. The analysis provides a framework for understanding potential pharmacokinetic interactions rooted in drug transporters as they modify drug distribution.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Carrier Proteins / metabolism*
  • Drug Interactions
  • Half-Life
  • Humans
  • Kidney / metabolism
  • Liver / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations / metabolism*
  • Pharmacokinetics
  • Polymorphism, Genetic
  • Rats


  • Carrier Proteins
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations