We aimed to assess the potential herb–drug interactions between Korean red ginseng extract (RGE) and metformin in rats in terms of the modulation of metformin transporters, such as organic cation transporter (Oct), multiple toxin and extrusion protein (Mate), and plasma membrane monoamine transporter (Pmat). Single treatment of RGE did not inhibit the in vitro transport activity of OCT1/2 up to 500 µg/mL and inhibited MATE1/2-K with high IC50
value (more than 147.8 µg/mL), suggesting that concomitant used of RGE did not directly inhibit OCT- and MATE-mediated metformin uptake. However, 1-week repeated administration of RGE (1.5 g/kg/day) (1WRA) to rats showed different alterations in mRNA levels of Oct1 depending on the tissue type. RGE increased intestinal Oct1 but decreased hepatic Oct1. However, neither renal Oct1/Oct2 nor Mate1/Pmat expression in duodenum, jejunum, ileum, liver, and kidney were changed in 1WRA rats. RGE repeated dose also increased the intestinal permeability of metformin; however, the permeability of 3-O
-glucose and Lucifer yellow was not changed in 1WRA rats, suggesting that the increased permeability of metformin by multiple doses of RGE is substrate-specific. On pharmacokinetic analysis, plasma metformin concentrations following intravenous injection were not changed in 1WRA, consistent with no significant change in renal Oct1, Oct2, and mate1. Repeated doses of RGE for 1 week significantly increased the plasma concentration of metformin, with increased half-life and urinary excretion of metformin following oral administration of metformin (50 mg/kg), which could be attributed to the increased absorption of metformin. In conclusion, repeated administration of RGE showed in vivo pharmacokinetic herb–drug interaction with metformin, with regard to its plasma exposure and increased absorption in rats. These results were consistent with increased intestinal Oct1 and its functional consequence, therefore, the combined therapeutic efficacy needs further evaluation before the combination and repeated administration of RGE and metformin, an Oct1 substrate drug.
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