GHB toxicokinetics and renal monocarboxylate transporter expression are influenced by the estrus cycle in rats

BMC Pharmacol Toxicol. 2023 Nov 2;24(1):58. doi: 10.1186/s40360-023-00700-y.


Background: The illicit use and abuse of gamma-hydroxybutyric acid (GHB) occurs due to its sedative/hypnotic and euphoric effects. Currently, there are no clinically available therapies to treat GHB overdose, and care focuses on symptom treatment until the drug is eliminated from the body. Proton- and sodium-dependent monocarboxylate transporters (MCTs (SLC16A) and SMCTs (SLC5A)) transport and mediate the renal clearance and distribution of GHB. Previously, it has been shown that MCT expression is regulated by sex hormones in the liver, skeletal muscle and Sertoli cells. The focus of the current study is to evaluate GHB toxicokinetics and renal monocarboxylate transporter expression over the estrus cycle in females, and in the absence of male and female sex hormones.

Methods: GHB toxicokinetics and renal transporter expression of MCT1, SMCT1 and CD147 were evaluated in females over the estrus cycle, and in ovariectomized (OVX) female, male and castrated (CST) male rats. GHB was administered iv bolus (600 and 1000 mg/kg) and plasma and urine samples were collected for six hours post-dose. GHB concentrations were quantified using a validated LC/MS/MS assay. Transporter mRNA and protein expression was quantified by qPCR and Western Blot.

Results: GHB renal clearance and AUC varied between sexes and over the estrus cycle in females with higher renal clearance and a lower AUC in proestrus females as compared to males (intact and CST), and OVX females. We demonstrated that renal MCT1 membrane expression varies over the estrus cycle, with the lowest expression observed in proestrus females, which is consistent with the observed changes in GHB renal clearance.

Conclusions: Our results suggest that females may be less susceptible to GHB-induced toxicity due to decreased exposure resulting from increased renal clearance, as a result of decreased renal MCT1 expression.

Keywords: Gamma-hydroxybutyric acid; Monocarboxylate transporters.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Female
  • Gonadal Steroid Hormones
  • Male
  • Monocarboxylic Acid Transporters / genetics
  • Monocarboxylic Acid Transporters / metabolism
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Sodium Oxybate* / pharmacokinetics
  • Sodium Oxybate* / toxicity
  • Tandem Mass Spectrometry
  • Toxicokinetics


  • Sodium Oxybate
  • Monocarboxylic Acid Transporters
  • Gonadal Steroid Hormones