Transplacental transfer and metabolism of bupropion

J Matern Fetal Neonatal Med. 2010 May;23(5):409-16. doi: 10.1080/14767050903168424.


Objective: In order to evaluate the potential use of bupropion as smoking cessation therapy during pregnancy, the aim of this investigation was to determine transplacental transfer and metabolism of bupropion and its distribution among placental tissue and maternal and fetal circuits of the dually perfused placental lobule.

Methods: Placentas obtained from healthy term pregnancies were perfused with bupropion at two concentrations 150 ng/ml and 450 ng/ml, along with the marker compound antipyrine 20 microg/ml. Radioactive isotopes of the two drugs were co-transfused to enhance their detection limits. Concentrations of bupropion and its metabolite were determined by liquid chromatography and liquid scintillation spectrometry.

Results: The fetal/maternal concentration ratio of bupropion was 1.07 +/- 0.22. Following 4 h of its perfusion, 48 +/- 6% of bupropion was retained by placental tissue, 32 +/- 5% remained in the maternal circuit, and 20 +/- 6% was transferred to the fetal circuit. A metabolite of bupropion, threohydrobupropion, was identified.

Conclusions: Bupropion was transferred from the maternal to fetal circuit and was biotransformed by placental tissue enzymes to its metabolite threohydrobupropion. Bupropion and its metabolite did not affect placental tissue viability or functional parameters. These data suggest that bupropion has the potential of being used for smoking cessation during pregnancy and should be further investigated for its safety and efficacy.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Bupropion / metabolism*
  • Bupropion / pharmacokinetics*
  • Cell Survival / drug effects
  • Chorionic Gonadotropin / analysis
  • Chorionic Gonadotropin / blood
  • Dopamine Uptake Inhibitors / metabolism
  • Dopamine Uptake Inhibitors / pharmacokinetics
  • Dopamine Uptake Inhibitors / therapeutic use
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Maternal-Fetal Exchange / drug effects
  • Models, Biological
  • Organ Culture Techniques
  • Perfusion
  • Placenta / cytology
  • Placenta / drug effects
  • Placenta / metabolism*
  • Pregnancy
  • Protein Binding
  • Serum Albumin / metabolism
  • Smoking Cessation / methods
  • Umbilical Cord / metabolism


  • Chorionic Gonadotropin
  • Dopamine Uptake Inhibitors
  • Serum Albumin
  • Bupropion