Correlation between oral drug absorption in humans, and apparent drug permeability in TC-7 cells, a human epithelial intestinal cell line: comparison with the parental Caco-2 cell line

Pharm Res. 1998 May;15(5):726-33. doi: 10.1023/a:1011919003030.


Purpose: To determine and compare the relationship between in vivo oral absorption in humans and the apparent permeability coefficients (Papp) obtained in vitro on two human intestinal epithelial cell lines, the parental Caco-2 and the TC-7 clone.

Methods: Both cell lines were grown for 5-35 days on tissue culture-treated inserts. Cell monolayers were analysed for their morphology by transmission electron micrography, and for their integrity with respect to transepithelial electrical resistance, mannitol and PEG-4000 transport, and cyclosporin efflux. Papp were determined for 20 compounds exhibiting large differences in chemical structure, molecular weight, transport mechanisms, and percentage of absorption in humans.

Results: The TC-7 clone exhibits morphological characteristics similar to those of the parental Caco-2 cell line, concerning apical brush border, microvilli, tight junctions and polarisation of the cell line. The TC-7 clone however appeared more homogenous in terms of cell size. Both cell lines achieved a similar monolayer integrity towards mannitol and PEG-4000. Monolayer integrity was achieved earlier for the TC-7 clone, mainly due to its shorter doubling time, i.e. 26 versus 30 hours for parental Caco-2 cells. When using cyclosporin A as a P-glycoprotein substrate, active efflux was lower in the TC-7 clone than in the parental Caco-2 cells. The Papp and mechanisms of transport (paracellular or transcellular routes, passive diffusion and active transport) were determined for 20 drugs. A relationship was established between the in vivo oral absorption in humans and Papp values, allowing to determine a threshold value for Papp of 2 10(-6) cm/sec, above for which a 100% oral absorption could be expected in humans. Both correlation curves obtained with the two cell types, were almost completely superimposable. These studies also confirmed that the dipeptide transporter is underexpressed in both cell lines.

Conclusions: On the basis of morphological parameters, biochemical activity and drug transport characteristics, the TC-7 clone appeared to be a valuable alternative to the use of parental Caco-2 cells for drug absorption studies.

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Oral
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / pharmacokinetics*
  • Biological Transport
  • Caco-2 Cells / metabolism*
  • Cell Membrane Permeability
  • Epithelial Cells / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Intestinal Absorption
  • Microscopy, Electron, Scanning


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents