Cellular Uptake of the Atypical Antipsychotic Clozapine Is a Carrier- Mediated Process
The weak base antipsychotic clozapine is the most effective medication for treating refractory schizophrenia. The brain-to-plasma concentration of unbound clozapine is greater than unity, indicating transporter-mediated uptake, which has been insufficiently studied. This is important, because it could have a significant impact on clozapine’s efficacy, drug−drug interaction, and safety profile. A major limitation of clozapine’s use is the risk of clozapine-induced agranulocytosis/ granulocytopenia (CIAG), which is a rare but severe hematological adverse drug reaction. We first studied the uptake of clozapine into human brain endothelial cells (hCMEC/D3). Clozapine uptake into cells was consistent with a carrier-mediated process, which was time-dependent and saturable (Vmax = 3299 pmol/million cells/min, Km = 35.9 M). The chemical inhibitors lamotrigine, quetiapine, olanzapine, prazosin, verapamil, indatraline, and chlorpromazine reduced the uptake of clozapine by up to 95%. This could in part explain the in vivo interactions observed in rodents or humans for these compounds. An extensive set of studies utilizing transporter overexpressing cell lines and siRNA-mediated transporter knockdown in hCMEC/D3 cells showed that clozapine was not a substrate of OCT1 (SLC22A1), OCT3 (SLC22A3), OCTN1 (SLC22A4), OCTN2 (SLC22A5), ENT1 (SLC29A1), ENT2 (SLC29A2), and ENT4/PMAT (SLC29A4). In a recent genome-wide analysis, the hepatic uptake transporters SLCO1B1 (OATP1B1) and SLCO1B3 (OATP1B3) were identified as additional candidate transporters. We therefore also investigated clozapine transport into OATP1B-transfected cells and found that clozapine was neither a substrate nor an inhibitor of OATP1B1 and OATP1B3. In summary, we have identified a carrier-mediated process for clozapine uptake into brain, which may be partly responsible for clozapine’s high unbound accumulation in the brain and its drug−drug interaction profile. Cellular clozapine uptake is independent from currently known drug transporters, and thus, molecular identification of the clozapine transporter will help to understand clozapine’s efficacy and safety profile.