Using Human Plasma as an Assay Medium in Caco-2 Studies Improves Mass Balance for Lipophilic Compounds

Kasiram Katneni, Thao Pham, Jessica Saunders, Gong Chen, Rahul Patil, Karen L. White, Nada Abla, Francis C.K. Chiu, David M. Shackleford, Susan A. Charman

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Purpose: To examine the utility of human plasma as an assay medium in Caco-2 permeability studies to overcome poor mass balance and inadequate sink conditions frequently encountered with lipophilic compounds. 

Methods: Caco-2 permeability was assessed for reference compounds with known transport mechanisms using either pH 7.4 buffer or human plasma as the assay medium in both the apical and basolateral chambers. When using plasma, Papp values were corrected for the unbound fraction in the donor chamber. The utility of the approach was assessed by measuring the permeability of selected antimalarial compounds using the two assay media. 

Results: Caco-2 cell monolayer integrity and P-gp transporter function were unaffected by the presence of human plasma in the donor and acceptor chambers. For many of the reference compounds having good mass balance with buffer as the medium, higher Papp values were observed with plasma, likely due to improved acceptor sink conditions. The lipophilic antimalarial compounds exhibited low mass balance with buffer, however the use of plasma markedly improved mass balance allowing the determination of more reliable Papp values. 

Conclusions: The results support the utility of human plasma as an alternate Caco-2 assay medium to improve mass balance and permeability measurements for lipophilic compounds.

Original languageEnglish
Article number210
Number of pages13
JournalPharmaceutical Research
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2018


  • Caco-2 permeability
  • human plasma protein binding
  • lipophilic compounds

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