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    ABSTRACT: Protease inhibitors are very effective in treating patients infected with HIV. However, many drugs in this class penetrate poorly into the central nervous system (CNS) and may permit this site to be a sanctuary from which resistant virus can emerge. Previous studies have shown that the protease inhibitor saquinavir (SQV) interacts with the multidrug transport system, P-glycoprotein (P-gp), expressed in epithelial cells in the gut mucosa and at the blood-brain barrier, and thus might affect both the oral absorption and the penetration of SQV into the CNS. To determine whether SQV is a substrate for P-gp, its uptake was determined in cancer cells, which do (Dx5) and do not (MES-SA) express P-gp. The distribution of SQV between brain tissue and plasma was also investigated in rats and in normal and P-gp-deficient mdr1a(-/-) mice. The distribution ratio of SQV in plasma:brain:cerebrospinal fluid was approximately 100:10:0.2 in rats. The accumulation of SQV was enhanced in MES-SA cells (P-gp-negative) versus Dx5 cells (P-gp-positive). Bolus i.v. injection of [(14)C]SQV (2 and 5 mg/kg) into mdr1a(-/-) and normal mice (n = 3 or 4) resulted in 3-fold higher radioactivity in brains from mdr1a(-/-) mice. Similarly, oral administration of [(14)C]SQV (500 mg/kg) resulted in a 5-fold increase in systemic exposure and a 10-fold increase in brain levels in mdr1a(-/-) mice. These data demonstrate that saquinavir is a substrate for P-gp and that this transport system may play a role in limiting oral absorption and CNS exposure to this protease inhibitor.
    No preview · Article · Oct 2000 · Drug Metabolism and Disposition