Amino acids in oral drug delivery
: salts, ion-pairs and transcriptomics

  • Amr Elshaer

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


Oral drug delivery is considered the most popular route of delivery because of the ease of administration, availability of a wide range of dosage forms and the large surface area for drug
absorption via the intestinal membrane. However, besides the unfavourable biopharmaceutical properties of the therapeutic agents, efflux transporters such as Pglycoprotein (P-gp) and multiple resistance proteins (MRP) decrease the overall drug uptake by
extruding the drug from the cells. Although, prodrugs have been investigated to improve drug
partitioning by masking the polar groups covalently with pre-moieties promoting increased uptake, they present significant challenges including reduced solubility and increased toxicity. The current work investigates the use of amino acids as ion-pairs for three model drugs: indomethacin (weak acid), trimethoprim (weak base) and ciprofloxacin (zwitter ion) in an
attempt to improve both solubility and uptake. Solubility was studied by salt formation while creating new routes for uptake across the membranes via amino acids transporter proteins or dipeptidyl transporters was the rationale to enhance absorption. New salts were prepared for the model drugs and the oppositely charged amino acids by freeze drying and they were characterised using FTIR, 1HNMR, DSC, SEM, pH solubility profile, solubility and dissolution.
Permeability profiles were assessed using an in vitro cell based method; Caco-2 cells and the genetic changes occurring across the transporter genes and various pathways involved in the
cellular activities were studied using DNA microarrays. Solubility data showed a significant increase in drug solubility upon preparing the new salts with the oppositely charged counter ions (ciprofloxacin glutamate salt exhibiting 2.9x103 fold enhancement when compared to the free drug). Moreover, permeability studies showed a 3
fold increase in trimethoprim and indomethacin permeabilities upon ion-pairing with amino acids and more than 10 fold when the zwitter ionic drug was paired with glutamic acid. Microarray data revealed that trimethoprim was absorbed actively via OCTN1 transporters
while MRP7 is the main transporter gene that mediates its efflux. The absorption of trimethoprim from trimethoprim glutamic acid ion-paired formulations was affected by the ratio of glutamic acid in the formulation which was inversely proportional to the degree of expression of OCTN1. Interestingly, ciprofloxacin glutamic acid ion-pairs were found to
decrease the up-regulation of ciprofloxacin efflux proteins (P-gp and MRP4) and over-express
two solute carrier transporters; (PEPT2 and SLCO1A2) suggesting that a high aqueous binding
constant (K11aq) enables the ion-paired formulations to be absorbed as one entity.
In conclusion, formation of ion-pairs with amino acids can influence in a positive way solubility,
transfer and gene expression effects of drugs.
Date of AwardJun 2013
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorPeter J Hanson (Supervisor) & Afzal-Ur-Rahman Mohammed (Supervisor)


  • oral drug delivery
  • solubility
  • Permeability
  • efflux transporters
  • ion-pairs
  • microarrays

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