Irinotecan (CPT-11) is an important anticancer drug in management of advanced colon cancer. A marked protective effect on CPT-11-induced blood and gastrointestinal toxicity is obtained by combination of St. John ’ s wort (SJW) in recent clinical and rat studies. However, the mechanism is unclear. This study aimed to explore the effects of SJW on the pharmacokinetics of CPT-11 and its major metabolites (SN-38 and SN-38 glucuronide) in rats and the underlying mechanisms using several in vitro models. Short-term (3 days) and long-term (14 days) pretreatment with SJW were conducted in rats to examine the effects of co-administered SJW on the plasma pharmacokinetics of CPT-11, SN-38 and SN- 38 glucuronide. Rat liver microsomes and a rat hepatoma cell line, H4-II-E cells, were utilized to study the effects of aqueous and ethanolic extracts (AE and EE) and major active components (hyperforin, hypericin and quercetin) of SJW on CPT-11 and SN-38 metabolism and intracellular accumulation. Co-administered SJW for consecutive 14 days significantly decreased the initial plasma concentration (C0) of CPT-11, the area under the concentration-time curve (AUC0-10hr) and maximum plasma concentration (Cmax) of SN-38. The ethanolic extracts (EE) of SJW at 5 μ g/ml significantly decreased SN-38 glucuronidation by 45% (P < 0.05) in rat hepatic microsomes. Pre-incubation of aqueous SJW extracts (AE) at 10 g/ml, SJW EE at 5 μg/ml, and quercetin at 10μ M significantly increased the glucuronidation of SN-38 in H4- II-E cells. A 2-hr pre-incubation of quercetin (100μ M) significantly increased the intracellular accumulation of CPT-11 (P < 0.05). However, pre-incubation of hypericin (20 nM and 200 nM) and hyperforin (1μ M) significantly decreased the intracellular accumulation of CPT-11. In addition, pre-incubation of hypericin, SJW EE and quercetin significantly increased the intracellular accumulation of SN-38. Aqueous and ethanolic SJW extracts and its major active components did not alter the plasma protein binding of CPT-11 and SN-38. These results indicated that the aqueous and ethanolic extracts of SJW and its major active components could markedly alter glucuronidation of SN-38 and intracellular accumulation of CPT-11 and SN-38, which probably provides partial explanation for the altered plasma pharmacokinetics of CPT-11 and SN-38 and the antagonizing effects on the toxicities of CPT-11. Further studies are needed to explore the role of both pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic components in the protective effect of SJW against the toxicities of CPT-11.
Keywords: Irinotecan (CPT-11), SN-38, St. John's wort, Hyperforin, Hypericin, Metabolism, Transport, Pharmacokinetics
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