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Emodin is a poorly bioavailable but promising plant-derived anticancer drug candidate. The low oral bioavailability of emodin is due to its extensive glucuronidation in the intestine and liver. Caco-2 cell culture model was used to investigate the interplay between UDP-glucuronosyltransferases (UGTs) and efflux transporters in the intestinal disposition of emodin. Bidirectional transport assays of emodin at different concentrations were performed in the Caco-2 monolayers with or without multidrug resistance-associated protein (MRP) and breast cancer resistance protein (BCRP) efflux transporter chemical inhibitors. The bidirectional permeability of emodin and its glucuronide in the Caco-2 monolayers was determined. Emodin was rapidly metabolized to emodin glucuronide in Caco-2 cells. LTC4, a potent inhibitor of MRP2, decreased the efflux of emodin glucuronide and also substantially increased the intracellular glucuronide level in the basolateral-to-apical (B-A) direction. MK-571, chemical inhibitor of MRP2, MRP3, and MRP4, significantly reduced the efflux of glucuronide in the apical-to-basolateral (A-B) and B-A directions in a dose-dependent manner. However, dipyridamole, a BCRP chemical inhibitor demonstrated no effect on formation and efflux of emodin glucuronide in Caco-2 cells. In conclusion, UGT is a main metabolic pathway for emodin in the intestine, and the MRP family is composed of major efflux transporters responsible for the excretion of emodin glucuronide in the intestine. The coupling of UGTs and MRP efflux transporters causes the extensive metabolism, excretion, and low bioavailability of emodin. Copyright © 2012 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


Wei Liu, Qian Feng, Ye Li, Ling Ye, Ming Hu, Zhongqiu Liu. Coupling of UDP-glucuronosyltransferases and multidrug resistance-associated proteins is responsible for the intestinal disposition and poor bioavailability of emodin. Toxicology and applied pharmacology. 2012 Dec 15;265(3):316-24

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PMID: 22982073

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