Characterization of digoxin uptake in sandwich-cultured human hepatocytes

Drug Metab Dispos. 2011 Jan;39(1):47-53. doi: 10.1124/dmd.110.034298. Epub 2010 Oct 6.


Digoxin is a drug that is commonly used to treat congestive heart failure. Because of digoxin's narrow therapeutic index, patients are susceptible to drug-drug interaction-mediated cardiotoxicity. Digoxin is primarily cleared renally; however, a significant component of clearance is due to multidrug resistance 1-mediated transport into bile. Digoxin is reported to be actively transported into human hepatocytes by the organic anion-transporting polypeptide 1B3 (OATP1B3); however, further characterization has not been fully described. The purpose of this study was to investigate the hepatic uptake mechanisms of [(3)H]digoxin using sandwich-cultured human hepatocytes (SCHH) and transporter-expressing cells. Digoxin uptake in SCHH involves both a saturable (carrier-mediated) process and a passive (nonsaturable) process. At low concentrations, the saturable component exhibited an apparent K(m) of 2.39 μM and a V(max) of 4.49 pmol/(min · mg protein). The calculated passive diffusion clearance was 1.25 μl/(min · mg protein). Uptake of [(3)H]digoxin in SCHH was not inhibited by a variety of substrates or inhibitors for OATP1B1, OATP1B3, OATP2B1, organic anion transporter 2, organic cation transporter 1, and monocarboxylate transporter 8. Cytochalasin B, which inhibits glucose transporters, did not significantly inhibit digoxin uptake, whereas the flavonoids quercetin and rutin inhibited uptake by ∼50%. Nonlabeled digoxin inhibited [(3)H]digoxin uptake by ∼50%. Studies with OATP-transfected human embryonic kidney cells or oocytes showed that digoxin is not a substrate of OATP1B1, OATP2B1, or OATP1B3. In conclusion, the data suggest that digoxin uptake in SCHH involves both saturable and passive processes. The saturable process is mediated by an as yet undetermined digoxin transporter(s).

MeSH terms

  • ATP Binding Cassette Transporter, Subfamily B, Member 1 / genetics
  • ATP Binding Cassette Transporter, Subfamily B, Member 1 / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Anti-Arrhythmia Agents / metabolism*
  • Anti-Arrhythmia Agents / pharmacokinetics
  • Bile / metabolism
  • Biological Transport
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Digoxin / metabolism*
  • Digoxin / pharmacokinetics
  • HEK293 Cells
  • Hepatocytes / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Liver / metabolism
  • Membrane Transport Proteins / metabolism
  • Oocytes / metabolism
  • Organic Anion Transporters / metabolism*
  • Transfection
  • Xenopus laevis


  • ATP Binding Cassette Transporter, Subfamily B, Member 1
  • Anti-Arrhythmia Agents
  • Membrane Transport Proteins
  • Organic Anion Transporters
  • Digoxin