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Biological responses of a variety of naturally occurring compounds in vivo were restrained by their poor oral bioavailability. Silybin, as one of the active ingredients of silymarin, has presented promising bioactivity for the treatment of chronic liver diseases and cancer. However, its exposure in body was limited. In this study, silybin was demonstrated to be substrates of both BCRP and MRP2 by utilizing monolayer Caco-2 cell model and confirmed in MDCK cells overexpressing specific efflux transporter. Of all compounds screened, tangeretin, a potent inhibitor of efflux transporters of BCRP, MRP2 and P-gp, was able to enhance exposure of silybin by inhibiting functions of the barriers mediating transcellular transport. Moreover, study carried out in sandwich-cultured rat hepatocyte (SCH) model showed that the biliary excretion index (BEI) and in vitro biliary clearance of silybin decreased as levels of tangeretin increased, indicating efflux transporters mediating biliary excretion of silybin might be involved. Pharmacokinetic behaviors of silybin in rats were altered by co-administration of tangeretin, in terms of increased AUC and Cmax of silybin by comparing with that of silybin given alone. In addition, results coming from CCl4-induced acute liver injury rat model revealed that protection effect of silybin against liver damage in the presence of tangeretin was significantly enhanced. All these data were evident that efflux transporters play a critical role in transcellular transport of silybin and account for its low bioavailability. Enhanced bioavailability of silybin with co-administration of tangeretin by significantly inhibiting the efflux transporters further boost its bioactivity which is of particular importance in clinical use.Silybin is substrate of both BCRP and MRP2 but not P-gp.Tangeretin enhanced bioavailability of silybin via inhibiting the efflux transporters leading to boosted bioactivity.Tangeretin is a potent inhibitor of efflux transporters of BCRP, MRP2 and P-gp.