Stereoselective Transport of Drugs Across the Blood-Brain Barrier (BBB) In Vivo and In Vitro : Pharmacokinetic and Pharmacodynamic Studies of the (S)- and (R)-Enantiomers of Different 5-HT1A Receptor Agonists and Antagonists

Abstract: Delivery of drugs to the brain requires passage across the blood-brain barrier (BBB). Both for drugs already on the market and for new drugs under development, it is important to know to what extent a drug enters the CNS. Many drugs used clinically are racemic mixtures, i.e. equal parts of the (S)- and (R)-enantiomers. The present studies focus on the enantiomers and racemates of a number of 5-HT1A receptor agonists and antagonists (pindolol, propranolol, 8-OH-DPAT and other 8-substituted-2-(di-n-propylamino)tetralin derivatives) and BBB transport in vitro and distribution to the brain in vivo. Assays (HPLC-based) were set up or developed for determination of the racemates and the pure enantiomers (chiral column) of drugs in plasma and brain tissue. BBB transport was assessed in vitro using bovine brain endothelial cells cocultured with rat astrocytes. The physicochemical constants (log P, pKa) and plasma protein binding were determined. Pindolol, propranolol and several tetralines accumulated over time in brain tissue. For pindolol and propranolol, but not for most tetralins, the distribution to the brain was stereoselective, (S)>(R). Pretreatment with verapamil, an inhibitor of drug efflux via P-glycoprotein, differentially decreased the brain/plasma ratios of the enantiomers of pindolol and propranolol, indicating that verapamil may also inhibit an influx transport mechanism. In vitro results with racemic pindolol, propranolol and tetralins showed no differences in BBB transport between the enantiomers. A more rapid apical to basolateral transport (influx) vs. the basolateral to apical (efflux) transport of propranolol (not pindolol) and most tetralins in vitro indicated active transport across the BBB. In conclusion, the combined in vivo and in vitro results are consistent with active transport of the studied compounds across the BBB rather than passive diffusion due to their lipophilicity. Some, but not all, chiral drugs are stereoselectively distributed to the brain. Stereoselective plasma protein binding or stereoselective transport across brain endothelial cells does not seem to explain the stereoselective accumulation of pindolol and propranolol. The stereochemical configuration of compounds contributes to their pharmacokinetic as well as their pharmacodynamic uniqueness. The characteristics of the enantiomers of chiral compounds need to be determined empirically rather than based on generalizations from structural or physicochemical information.