Pharmacokinetics of pericyte involvement in small-molecular drug transport across the blood-brain barrier

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Pericytes are perivascular cells that play important roles in the regulation of the blood-brain barrier (BBB) properties. Pericyte-deficiency causes compromised BBB integrity and increase in permeability to different macromolecules mainly by upregulated transcytosis. The aim of the present study was to investigate pericyte involvement in the extent of small-molecular drug transport across the BBB. This was performed with five compounds: diazepam, digoxin, levofloxacin, oxycodone and paliperidone. Compounds were administered at low doses via subcutaneous injections as a cassette (simultaneously) to pericyte-deficient Pdgfbret/ret mice and corresponding WT controls. Total drug partitioning across the BBB was calculated as the ratio of total drug exposures in brain tissue and plasma (Kp,brain). In addition, equilibrium dialysis experiments were performed to estimate unbound drug fractions in brain (fu,brain) and plasma (fu,plasma). This enabled estimation of unbound drug partitioning coefficients (Kp,uu,brain). The results indicated slight tendencies towards increase of total brain exposures in Pdgfbret/ret mice as reflected in Kp,brain values, which were within the 2-fold limit. Part of these differences could be explained by differences in plasma protein binding. No difference was found in brain tissue binding. The combined in vivo and in vitro data resulted in no differences in BBB transport in pericyte-deficiency, as described by similar Kp,uu,brain values in Pdgfbret/ret and control mice. In conclusion, these findings imply no influence of pericytes on the extent of BBB transport of small-molecular drugs, and suggest preserved BBB features relevant for handling of this type of molecules irrespective of pericyte presence at the brain endothelium.Graphical abstract

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