Purpose: To determine whether the expression and activity of the P-glycoprotein (P-GP) drug efflux pump vary with the culture age of Caco-2 cell monolayers.
Methods: Caco-2 cell monolayers were grown for 3-27 days on tissue culture-treated Transwells. P-GP efflux function was determined by measuring transmonolayer fluxes of cyclosporin A (CsA) and verapamil, while P-GP expression level was evaluated by Western blot analysis using monoclonal antibody C219.
Results: The apparent permeability coefficient (Papp) of CsA (0.5 microM) in the basolateral-to-apical (B-->A) direction increased with culture age and was higher than the apical-to-basolateral (A-->B) direction at all times. Net secretory Papp significantly increased from day 17 onward compared to that observed during day 3 through 13. Verapamil (100 microM) significantly inhibited CsA transport in the B-->A direction from day 17 to 27, while elevating CsA transport in the A-->B direction from day 6 to 27. Interestingly, the Papp of verapamil (0.5 microM) in the B-->A direction was significantly higher than in the A-->B direction from day 6 to 27, rendering increases in net secretory Papp of verapamil with culture age. Western analysis revealed that P-GP expression level was in the order of 4 weeks approximately 1 week > 3 weeks > 2 weeks at equal loading of cell proteins.
Conclusions: P-GP is continuously expressed throughout the culture period, but it may not be fully functional at an early age. Caco-2 cell monolayers of day 17 to 27 appear to be a good model to evaluate the functional role of P-GP in drug efflux.