Multiple Transport Mechanisms Involved in the Intestinal Absorption of Metformin: Impact on the Nonlinear Absorption Kinetics

J Pharm Sci. 2022 May;111(5):1531-1541. doi: 10.1016/j.xphs.2022.01.008. Epub 2022 Jan 26.


The aim of this study was to investigate the contributions of multiple transport mechanisms to the intestinal absorption of metformin, focusing on OCT3, PMAT, THTR2, SERT and OCTN2. We also assessed the impact of these transporters on the nonlinear absorption of metformin. Uptake studies with MDCKII cells expressing OCT3, PMAT, THTR2 or SERT confirmed that metformin is a substrate of these transporters. Decynium22 strongly inhibited metformin uptake mediated by all the transporters. 7-Cyclopentyl inhibited OCT3- and THTR2-mediated uptake of metformin. AG835, thiamine and paroxetine specifically inhibited PMAT-, THTR2- and SERT-mediated uptake of metformin, respectively. Using these inhibitors, the relative contributions of OCT3, PMAT, THTR2, SERT, OCTN2 and others to the intestinal permeation of metformin across Caco-2 cells were estimated to be 9.77%, 9.68%, 22.2%, 1.52%, 0% and 0.66%, respectively. Concentration-dependent analysis of metformin uptake by Caco-2 cells revealed nonlinear kinetics with the similar Km(app) value to the value for THTR2. Further in situ absorption study demonstrated that rat intestinal permeability of metformin was significantly decreased in the presence of decynium22, 7-cyclopentyl and thiamine. The present study indicated that THTR2 is the major determinant of the nonlinear absorption of metformin, although multiple transport mechanisms contribute to its intestinal absorption.

Keywords: Metformin; OCT3; OCTN2; PMAT; SERT; THTR2; intestinal absorption; intestinal transport; nonlinear pharmacokinetics.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Transport
  • Caco-2 Cells
  • Humans
  • Intestinal Absorption
  • Kinetics
  • Membrane Transport Proteins / metabolism
  • Metformin*
  • Rats
  • Thiamine / pharmacology


  • Membrane Transport Proteins
  • Metformin
  • Thiamine