Comparison of minipig, dog, monkey and human drug metabolism and disposition

J Pharmacol Toxicol Methods. 2015 Jul-Aug;74:80-92. doi: 10.1016/j.vascn.2014.12.005. Epub 2014 Dec 27.


Introduction: This article gives an overview of the drug metabolism and disposition (ADME) characteristics of the most common non-rodent species used in toxicity testing of drugs (minipigs, dogs, and monkeys) and compares these to human characteristics with regard to enzymes mediating the metabolism of drugs and the transport proteins which contribute to the absorption, distribution and excretion of drugs.

Methods: Literature on ADME and regulatory guidelines of relevance in drug development of small molecules has been gathered.

Results: Non-human primates (monkeys) are the species that is closest to humans in terms of genetic homology. Dogs have an advantage due to the ready availability of comprehensive background data for toxicological safety assessment and dogs are easy to handle. Pigs have been used less than dogs and monkeys as a model in safety assessment of drug candidates. However, when a drug candidate is metabolised by aldehyde oxidase (AOX1), N-acetyltransferases (NAT1 and NAT2) or cytochrome (CYP2C9-like) enzymes which are not expressed in dogs, but are present in pigs, this species may be a better choice than dogs, provided that adequate exposure can be obtained in pigs. Conversely, pigs might not be the right choice if sulfation, involving 3-phospho-adenosyl-5-phosphosulphate sulphotransferase (PAPS) is an important pathway in the human metabolism of a drug candidate.

Discussion: In general, the species selection should be based on comparison between in vitro studies with human cell-based systems and animal-cell-based systems. Results from pharmacokinetic studies are also important for decision-making by establishing the obtainable exposure level in the species. Access to genetically humanized mouse models and highly sensitive analytical methods (accelerator mass spectrometry) makes it possible to improve the chance of finding all metabolites relevant for humans before clinical trials have been initiated and, if necessary, to include another animal species before long term toxicity studies are initiated. In conclusion, safety testing can be optimized by applying knowledge about species ADME differences and utilising advanced analytical techniques.

Keywords: Comparison; Development; Disposition; Dog; Drug; Metabolism; Methods; Monkey; Pig; Selection.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Availability
  • Dogs
  • Haplorhini / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Inactivation, Metabolic / physiology*
  • Mice
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations / metabolism*
  • Species Specificity
  • Swine
  • Swine, Miniature / metabolism
  • Toxicity Tests / methods


  • Pharmaceutical Preparations