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Many quaternary ammonium salts are incompletely absorbed after their oral administration and may also be actively secreted into the intestine. However, the underlying mechanism(s) that control the transport of these cations across the intestinal epithelium is not well understood. In this study, the mechanism of absorption of quaternary ammonium salts was investigated using Caco-2 cell monolayers, a human colon carcinoma cell line. Tributylmethyl-ammonium (TBuMA) was used as a model quaternary ammonium salts. When TBuMA was administrated at a dose of 13.3 imole/kg via iv and oral routes, the AUC values were 783.7 +/- 43.6 and 249.1 +/- 28.0 micormole x min/L for iv and oral administration, indicating a lower oral bioavailability of TBuMA (35.6%). The apparent permeability across Caco-2 monolayers from the basal to the apical side was 1.3 times (p < 0.05) greater than that from the apical to the basal side, indicating a net secretion of TBuMA in the intestine. This secretion appeared to be responsible for the low oral bioavailability of the compound, probably mediated by p-gp (p-glycoprotein) located in the apical membrane. In addition, the uptake of TBuMA by the apical membrane showed a Na+ dependency. Thus, TBuMA appears to absorbed via a Na+ dependent carrier and is then secreted via p-gp related carriers.


Soon-Sun Hong, Sang-Cherl Moon, Chang-Koo Shim. Mechanism of intestinal transport of an organic cation, tributylmethylammonium in Caco-2 cell monolayers. Archives of pharmacal research. 2006 Apr;29(4):318-22

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PMID: 16681038

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