Biological barriers to the nasal delivery of peptide drugs

  • Paula A. Holbrook

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


The nasal absorption of larger peptide and protein drugs is generally low. The importance of the mucus layer and enzymic degradation in reducing absorption were investigated.
Reversed-phase high-performance liquid chromatographic (HPLC) methods were developed to assay a variety of compounds.
Pig gastric mucus (PGM) was selected to investigate the importance of the mucus layer. A method of treating and storing PGM was developed and evaluated which was representative of the gel in vivo.
The nature of the mucus barrier was evaluated in vitro with three-compartment diffusion cells and a series of compounds with differing physicochemical properties. Mucus retarded the diffusion of all the compounds with molecular weight and charge exerting a marked effect. Binding to mucus was investigated by a centrifugation method. All of the compounds tested were found to bind to mucus with the exception of the negatively charged molecule benzoic acid. The small peptides did not demonstrate greater binding to mucus than any of the other compounds evaluated.
The effect of some absorption enhancers upon the rate of diffusion of tryptophan through mucus was determined in vi tro. At the concentrations employed the enhancers EDTA, N-acetylcysteine and taurodeoxycholic acid exerted no effect, whilst taurocholic acid and cholic acid, were found to slightly reduce the rate of diffusion.
The intracellular and luminal proteolytic activity of the nose was investigated in the sheep animal model with a nasal mucosal homogenate and a nasal wash preparation respectively and a series of chemically similar peptides. Hydrolysis was also investigated with the proteolytic enzymes carboxypeptidase A, cytosolic leucine aminopeptidase and microsomal leucine aminopeptidase.
Sheep nasal mucosa possesses significant peptide hydrolase activity capable of degrading all the substrates tested. Considerable variation in susceptibility was observed. Degradation occurred excl us i ve ly at the pept ide bond between the aromatic amino ac id and glycine, indicating some specificity for aromatic amino acids. Hydrolysis profiles indicated the presence of both aminopeptidase and carboxypeptidase enzymes. The specific activity of the microsomal fraction was found to be greater than the cytosolic fraction. Hydrolysis in the nasal wash indicated the presence of either luminal or loosely-bound proteases, which can degrade peptide substrates. The same specificity for aromatic amino acids was observed and aminopeptidase activity demonstrated. The specific activity of the nasal wash was smaller than that of the homogenate.
Date of AwardNov 1991
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorBill Irwin (Supervisor)


  • intranasal
  • peptide
  • mucus
  • absorption enhancers
  • proteolytic enzymes

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