Characterization of the unstirred water layer in Caco-2 cell monolayers using a novel diffusion apparatus

Pharm Res. 1991 Feb;8(2):222-7. doi: 10.1023/a:1015848205447.


Caco-2 monolayers grown on Transwell polycarbonate membranes have been characterized as a valuable tool in drug transport studies. Despite the clear advantages of this system, the lack of stirring may create an unstirred water layer (UWL) whose resistance may limit the transcellular transport of lipophilic molecules. The objective of this study was to evaluate a novel diffusion cell where the transport buffer is mixed by gas lift and to determine the mixing flow rate needed to reduce the thickness (h) of the UWL adjacent to cell monolayers. The transport of the leakage marker, mannitol, remained at least 15-fold lower than the flux of testosterone, indicating that the stirring flow rates used did not affect the integrity of the monolayers. The permeability (P) of testosterone (log PC 3.13) across monolayers mounted on this diffusion cell was 4.07, 10.90, and 14.18 x 10(-5) cm/sec at flow rates of 0, 15, and 40 ml/min, respectively, and the apparent UWLs were calculated to be 1966, 733, and 564 microns. P and h in the stagnant Transwell were 3.08 x 10(-5) cm/sec and 2597 microns, respectively. On the other hand, h was significantly smaller in the unstirred, cell-free membranes than in their cell-containing counterparts. P was correlated with lipophilicity and, in the case of the more lipophilic compounds, with the mixing flow rate.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Cells, Cultured
  • Diffusion
  • Epithelium / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Intestinal Mucosa / metabolism*
  • Permeability
  • Solubility