The intestinal absorption of the flavonoid quercetin in rats is limited by the secretion of glucuronidated metabolites back into the gut lumen. The objective of this study was to determine the role of the intestinal efflux transporters breast cancer resistance protein (Bcrp1)/Abcg2 and multidrug resistance-associated protein 2 (Mrp2)/Abcc2. To study the possible involvement of Mrp2, we compared intestinal uptake of quercetin-3-glucoside between control and Mrp2-deficient rats, using an in situ intestinal perfusion system. The contribution of Bcrp1 was determined using the specific inhibitor fumitremorgin C (FTC) in Mrp2-deficient rats. Furthermore, vectorial transport of quercetin was studied in Madin-Darby canine kidney (MDCK)II cells transfected with either human MRP2 or murine Bcrp1. In these MDCKII cells, we showed an efficient efflux-directed transport of quercetin by mouse Bcrp1, whereas in control and MRP2-transfected cells no vectorial transport of quercetin was observed. In Mrp2-deficient rats, intestinal uptake of quercetin from quercetin-3-glucoside, efflux of quercetin glucuronides to the gut lumen, and plasma concentration of quercetin were similar to that in control rats. When intestinal Bcrp1 was inhibited by FTC in Mrp2-deficient rats, total plasma concentrations of quercetin and its methylated metabolite isorhamnetin after 30 min of perfusion were more than twice that of controls (12.3 ± 1.5 versus 5.6 ± 1.3 µM; p <0.01), whereas uptake of free quercetin from the intestinal lumen was not affected. Instead, inhibition of Bcrp1 lowered the efflux of quercetin glucuronides into the perfusion fluid by approximately 4-fold. In conclusion, Bcrp1 limits net intestinal absorption of quercetin by pumping quercetin glucuronides back into the lumen.
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