Comparison of Methods for Estimating Unbound Intracellular-to-Medium Concentration Ratios in Rat and Human Hepatocytes Using Statins

Drug Metab Dispos. 2017 Jul;45(7):779-789. doi: 10.1124/dmd.116.074823. Epub 2017 May 3.


It is essential to estimate concentrations of unbound drugs inside the hepatocytes to predict hepatic clearance, efficacy, and toxicity of the drugs. The present study was undertaken to compare predictability of the unbound hepatocyte-to-medium concentration ratios (Kp,uu) by two methods based on the steady-state cell-to-medium total concentration ratios at 37°C and on ice (Kp,uu,ss) and based on their initial uptake rates (Kp,uu,V0). Poorly metabolized statins were used as test drugs because of their concentrative uptake via organic anion-transporting polypeptides. Kp,uu,ss values of these statins provided less interexperimental variation than the Kp,uu,V0 values, because only data at longer time are required for Kp,uu,ss Kp,uu,V0 values for pitavastatin, rosuvastatin, and pravastatin were 1.2- to 5.1-fold Kp,uu,ss in rat hepatocytes; Kp,uu,V0 values in human hepatocytes also tended to be larger than corresponding Kp,uu,ss To explain these discrepancies, theoretical values of Kp,uu,ss and Kp,uu,V0 were compared with true Kp,uu (Kp,uu,true), considering the inside-negative membrane potential and ionization of the drugs in hepatocytes and medium. Membrane potentials were approximately -30 mV in human hepatocytes at 37°C and almost abolished on ice. Theoretical equations considering the membrane potentials indicate that Kp,uu,ss values for the statins are 0.85- to 1.2-fold Kp,uu,true, whereas Kp,uu,V0 values are 2.2- to 3.1-fold Kp,uu,true, depending on the ratio of the passive permeability of the ionized to nonionized forms. In conclusion, Kp,uu,ss values of anions are similar to Kp,uu,true when the inside-negative membrane potential is considered. This suggests that Kp,uu,ss is preferable for estimating the concentration of unbound drugs inside the hepatocytes.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Transport / physiology
  • Hepatocytes / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors / metabolism*
  • Liver / metabolism
  • Male
  • Membrane Potentials / physiology
  • Organic Anion Transporters / metabolism
  • Permeability
  • Pravastatin / metabolism
  • Quinolines / metabolism
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Rosuvastatin Calcium / metabolism


  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors
  • Organic Anion Transporters
  • Quinolines
  • Rosuvastatin Calcium
  • Pravastatin
  • pitavastatin