Accumulation of doxorubicin and other lipophilic amines into large unilamellar vesicles in response to transmembrane pH gradients

Biochim Biophys Acta. 1993 Jul 4;1149(2):329-38. doi: 10.1016/0005-2736(93)90218-o.


The uptake of the anticancer agent doxorubicin into large unilamellar vesicles (LUVs) exhibiting a transmembrane pH gradient (inside acidic) has been investigated using both kinetic and equilibrium approaches. It is shown that doxorubicin uptake into the vesicles proceeds via permeation of the neutral form and that uptake of the drug into LUVs with an acidic interior is associated with high activation energies (Ea) which are markedly sensitive to lipid composition. Doxorubicin uptake into egg-yolk phosphatidylcholine (EPC) LUVs exhibited an activation energy of 28 kcal/mol, whereas for uptake into EPC/cholesterol (55:45, mol/mol) LUVs Ea = 38 kcal/mol. The equilibrium uptake results obtained are analyzed in terms of a model which includes the buffering capacity of the interior medium and the effects of drug partitioning into the interior monolayer. From the equilibrium uptake behaviour, a doxorubicin partition coefficient of 70 can be estimated for EPC/cholesterol bilayers. For a 100 nm diameter LUV, this indicates that more than 95% of encapsulated doxorubicin is partitioned into the inner monolayer, presumably located at the lipid/water interface. This is consistent with 13C-NMR behaviour as a large proportion of the drug appears membrane associated after accumulation as reflected by a broadening beyond detection of the 13C-NMR spectrum. The equilibrium accumulation behaviour of a variety of other lipophilic amines is also examined in terms of the partitioning model.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amines / chemistry*
  • Buffers
  • Doxorubicin / chemistry*
  • Drug Carriers
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Kinetics
  • Liposomes
  • Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy
  • Membranes, Artificial
  • Methylamines / chemistry
  • Permeability
  • Temperature


  • Amines
  • Buffers
  • Drug Carriers
  • Liposomes
  • Membranes, Artificial
  • Methylamines
  • Doxorubicin
  • methylamine