Modeling and Simulation of Intracellular Drug Transport and Disposition Pathways with Virtual Cell

J Pharm Pharmacol (Los Angel). 2013 Sep 13;1(1):1000004. doi: 10.13188/2327-204X.1000004.


The development of computational approaches for modeling the spatiotemporal dynamics of intracellular, small molecule drug concentrations has become an increasingly important area of pharmaceutical research. For systems pharmacology, the system dynamics of subcellular transport can be coupled to downstream pharmacological effects on biochemical pathways that impact cell structure and function. Here, we demonstrate how a widely used systems biology modeling package - Virtual Cell - can also be used to model the intracellular, passive transport pathways of small druglike molecules. Using differential equations to represent passive drug transport across cellular membranes, spatiotemporal changes in the intracellular distribution and concentrations of exogenous chemical agents in specific subcellular organelles were simulated for weakly acidic, neutral, and basic molecules, as a function of the molecules' lipophilicity and ionization potentials. In addition, we simulated the transport properties of small molecule chemical agents in the presence of a homogenous extracellular concentration or a transcellular concentration gradient. We also simulated the effects of cell type-dependent variations in the intracellular microenvironments on the distribution and accumulation of small molecule chemical agents in different organelles over time, under influx and efflux conditions. Lastly, we simulated the transcellular transport of small molecule chemical agents, in the presence of different apical and basolateral microenvironments. By incorporating existing models of drug permeation and subcellular distribution, our results indicate that Virtual Cell can provide a user-friendly, open, online computational modeling platform for systems pharmacology and biopharmaceutics research, making mathematical models and simulation results accessible to a broad community of users, without requiring advanced computer programming knowledge.

Keywords: Computational Biology; Drug Disposition; Pharmacokinetics; Pharmacology; Simulation and Modeling; Systems Biology; Systems Pharmacology; Virtual Cell.