Background: Long-term intake of a high-fat diet is a crucial factor contributing to obesity, which has
become a global public health problem. Progressive obesity subsequently leads to hepatic injury, renal damage and
intestinal atrophy. Transporters expressed in the liver, kidney and intestine play important roles in the deposition of
nutrients and drugs, but researchers have not clearly determined whether/how the expression of transporters changes
after long-term administration of a High-Fat Diet (HFD). This study aims to explore the effects of the long-term
administration of a HFD on the expression of drug transporters in the liver, kidney and intestine in mice and to provide
useful information for medical applications in the clinic.
Methods: Male C57BL/6J mice were fed either a basal diet or HFD for 24 weeks, and oral glucose tolerance tests
were performed after 3, 11 and 23 weeks. Serum was obtained to measure lipid metabolism, inflammatory mediators,
renal function and hepatic function. Adipose tissues, kidney, pancreas and liver were collected for hematoxylin and
eosin (H&E) staining after 4, 12 and 24 weeks. The mRNA and proteins expression of drug transporters in the liver,
kidney and intestine were detected using real-time PCR and western blot, respectively.
Results: Compared with the control group, long-term HFD administration significantly increased the adipose index.
The serum lipid levels, including Total Cholesterol (TC), Triglyceride (TG), and Low-Density Lipoprotein Cholesterol
(LDL-C), as well as the levels of the inflammatory cytokines Interleukin-10 (IL-10) and tumor necrosis factor-α
(TNF-α) were significantly elevated in HFD-induced obese mice. H&E staining revealed pathological changes in the
adipose cells, liver, kidney and pancreas from the obese group following the long-term administration of the HFD.
The liver of the obese group presented increased mRNA expression of the efflux transporter Mrp2 and uptake transporter
Oat2 at 24 weeks. The relative expression of Oat2 increased 4.08-fold and the protein expression of Oat2 was
upregulated at 24 weeks in HFD-fed mice, while the mRNA expression of the uptake transporters Oct1, Oatp1b2 and
Oatp1a4 decreased by 79%, 61% and 19%, respectively. The protein expression of Oct1 was significantly downregulated
in obese mice at 12 weeks. The mRNA expression of the efflux transporter Mdr1a was significantly reduced in
HFD-fed mice compared with the control group at 24 weeks. Western blot showed that the trend of protein level of
Mdr1 was consistent with the mRNA expression. In the kidney, the level of the Oct2 mRNA increased 1.92- and
2.46-fold at 4 and 12 weeks in HFD-fed mice, respectively. The expression of the Oat1 and Oat3 mRNAs was markedly
downregulated in the kidneys of mice with HFD-induced obesity at 4 weeks. The decrease of 72% and 21% in
Mdr1a mRNA expression was observed in the obese model at 4 weeks and 12 weeks, respectively. Western blot
showed that the protein levels of Mdr1 and Oat1 were consistent with the mRNA expression. The qPCR experiments
showed a 2.87-fold increase in Bcrp mRNA expression at 24 weeks, and the expression of the Pept1 mRNA increased
2.84-fold in intestines of obese mice subjected to long-term administration of the HFD compared with control
mice at 12 weeks. Western blot showed that the trend of protein levels of Mdr1 and Mrp2 were consistent with
the mRNA expression.
Conclusion: The expression of uptake and efflux transporters mRNAs and protein levels were altered in obese mice
compared with control mice, providing scientific evidence for future medical applications in the clinic.