Mol. Pharm. 19 (1) 124-137 [2022-01-03; online 2021-12-16]
Oral administration of drugs is generally considered convenient and patient-friendly. However, oral administration of biological drugs exhibits low oral bioavailability (BA) due to enzymatic degradation and low intestinal absorption. A possible approach to circumvent the low BA of oral peptide drugs is to coformulate the drugs with permeation enhancers (PEs). PEs have been studied since the 1960s and are molecules that enhance the absorption of hydrophilic molecules with low permeability over the gastrointestinal epithelium. In this study, we investigated the impact of six PEs on the structural properties of a model membrane using molecular dynamics (MD) simulations. The PEs included were the sodium salts of the medium chain fatty acids laurate, caprate, and caprylate and the caprylate derivative SNAC─all with a negative charge─and neutral caprate and neutral sucrose monolaurate. Our results indicated that the PEs, once incorporated into the membrane, could induce membrane leakiness in a concentration-dependent manner. Our simulations suggest that a PE concentration of at least 70-100 mM is needed to strongly affect transcellular permeability. The increased aggregation propensity seen for neutral PEs might provide a molecular-level mechanism for the membrane disruptions seen at higher concentrations in vivo. The ability for neutral PEs to flip-flop across the lipid bilayer is also suggestive of possible intracellular modes of action other than increasing membrane fluidity. Taken together, our results indicate that MD simulations are useful for gaining insights relevant to the design of oral dosage forms based around permeability enhancer molecules.