P-glycoprotein is a major determinant of norbuprenorphine brain exposure and antinociception.

Journal Article (Journal Article)

Norbuprenorphine is a major metabolite of buprenorphine and potent agonist of μ, δ, and κ opioid receptors. Compared with buprenorphine, norbuprenorphine causes minimal antinociception but greater respiratory depression. It is unknown whether the limited antinociception is caused by low efficacy or limited brain exposure. Norbuprenorphine is an in vitro substrate of the efflux transporter P-glycoprotein (Mdr1), but the role of P-glycoprotein in norbuprenorphine transport in vivo is unknown. This investigation tested the hypothesis that limited norbuprenorphine antinociception results from P-glycoprotein-mediated efflux and limited brain access. Human P-glycoprotein-mediated transport in vitro of buprenorphine, norbuprenorphine, and their respective glucuronide conjugates was assessed by using transfected cells. P-glycoprotein-mediated norbuprenorphine transport and consequences in vivo were assessed by using mdr1a(+/+) and mdr1a(-/-) mice. Antinociception was determined by hot-water tail-flick assay, and respiratory effects were determined by unrestrained whole-body plethysmography. Brain and plasma norbuprenorphine and norbuprenorphine-3-glucuronide were quantified by mass spectrometry. In vitro, the net P-glycoprotein-mediated efflux ratio for norbuprenorphine was nine, indicating significant efflux. In contrast, the efflux ratio for buprenorphine and the two glucuronide conjugates was unity, indicating absent transport. The norbuprenorphine brain/plasma concentration ratio was significantly greater in mdr1a(-/-) than mdr1a(+/+) mice. The magnitude and duration of norbuprenorphine antinociception were significantly increased in mdr1a(-/-) compared with mdr1a(+/+) mice, whereas the reduction in respiratory rate was similar. Results show that norbuprenorphine is an in vitro and in vivo substrate of P-glycoprotein. P-glycoprotein-mediated efflux influences brain access and antinociceptive, but not the respiratory, effects of norbuprenorphine.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Brown, SM; Campbell, SD; Crafford, A; Regina, KJ; Holtzman, MJ; Kharasch, ED

Published Date

  • October 2012

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 343 / 1

Start / End Page

  • 53 - 61

PubMed ID

  • 22739506

Pubmed Central ID

  • PMC3464040

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1521-0103

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1124/jpet.112.193433


  • eng

Conference Location

  • United States