Progress in brain penetration evaluation in drug discovery and development.

Research paper by Xingrong X Liu, Cuiping C Chen, Bill J BJ Smith

Indexed on: 22 Jan '08Published on: 22 Jan '08Published in: The Journal of pharmacology and experimental therapeutics


This review discusses strategies to optimize brain penetration from the perspective of drug discovery and development. Brain penetration kinetics can be described by the extent and time to reach brain equilibrium. The extent is defined as the ratio of free brain concentration to free plasma concentration at steady state. For all central nervous system (CNS) drug discovery programs, optimization of the extent of brain penetration should focus on designing and selecting compounds having low efflux transport at the blood-brain barrier (BBB). The time to reach brain equilibrium is determined by both BBB permeability and brain tissue binding. Rapid brain penetration can be achieved by increasing passive permeability and reducing brain tissue binding. Although many drug transporters have been identified at the BBB, the available literature demonstrates only the in vivo functional importance of P-glycoprotein (P-gp) in limiting brain penetration of its substrates. Drug-drug interactions mediated by P-gp at the BBB are possible due to inhibition or induction of P-gp. For newly identified drug transporters at the BBB, more research is needed to reveal their in vivo significance. We propose the following strategies for addressing drug transporters at the BBB. 1) Drug discovery screens should be used to eliminate good P-gp substrates for CNS targets. Special consideration could be given to moderate P-gp substrates as potential CNS drugs based on a high unmet medical need and the presence of a large safety margin. 2) Selection of P-gp substrates as drug candidates for non-CNS targets can reduce their CNS-mediated side effects.