In addition to individual intestinal fluid components, colloidal structures are responsible for enhancing the solubility of lipophilic compounds. The present study investigated the link between the ultrastructure of fed state human intestinal fluids (FeHIF) and their solubilizing capacity for lipophilic compounds, taking into account interindividual variability. For this purpose, FeHIF samples from 10 healthy volunteers with known composition and ultrastructure were used to determine the solubility of four lipophilic compounds. In light of the focus on solubility and ultrastructure, the study carefully considered the methodology of solubility determination in relation to colloid composition and solubilizing capacity of FeHIF.
To determine the solubilizing capacity of human and simulated intestinal fluids, the samples were saturated with the compound of interest, shaken for 24 h, and centrifuged. When using FeHIF, solubilities were determined in the micellar layer of FeHIF, i.e. after removing the upper (lipid) layer (standard procedure), as well as in total FeHIF (without removal of the upper layer). Compound concentrations were determined using HPLC-UV/fluorescence. To link the solubilizing capacity with the ultrastructure, all human and simulated fluids were imaged using transmission electron microscopy (TEM) before and after centrifugation and top layer (lipid) removal.
Comparing the ultrastructure and solubilizing capacity of individual FeHIF samples demonstrated a high intersubject variability in postprandial intestinal conditions. Imaging of FeHIF after removal of the upper layer clearly showed that only micellar structures remain in the lower layer. This observation suggests that larger colloids such as vesicles and lipid droplets are contained in the upper, lipid layer. The solubilizing capacity of most FeHIF samples substantially increased with inclusion of this lipid layer. The relative increase in solubilizing capacity upon inclusion of the lipid layer was most pronounced in samples that contained mainly vesicles alongside the micelles. Current fed state simulated intestinal fluids do not contain the larger colloids observed in the lipid layer of FeHIF and can only simulate the solubilizing capacity of the micellar layer of FeHIF.
While the importance of drug molecules solubilized in the micellar layer of postprandial intestinal fluids for absorption has been extensively demonstrated previously, the in-vivo relevance of drug solubilization in the lipid layer is currently unclear. In the dynamic environment of the human gastrointestinal tract, drug initially entrapped in larger postprandial colloids may become available for absorption upon lipid digestion and uptake. The current study, demonstrating the substantial solubilization of lipophilic compounds in the larger colloids of postprandial intestinal fluids, warrants further research in this field.