Multidrug resistance is still an obstacle for chemotherapeutic treatments. One of the proteins involved in this phenomenon is the P-glycoprotein, P-gp, which is known to be responsible for the efflux of therapeutic substances from the cell cytoplasm. To date, the identification of a drug that can efficiently inhibit P-gp activity remains a challenge, nevertheless some studies have identified natural compounds suitable for that purpose. Amongst them, curcumin has shown an inhibitory effect on the protein in in vitro studies using Caco-2 cells. To understand if flow can modulate the influence of curcumin on the protein’s activity, we studied the uptake of a P-gp substrate under static and dynamic conditions. Caco-2 cells were cultured in bioreactors and in Transwells and the basolateral transport of rhodamine-123 was assessed in the two systems as a function of the P-gp activity. Experiments were performed with and without pre-treatment of the cells with an extract of curcumin or an arylmethyloxy-phenyl derivative to evaluate the inhibitory effect of the natural substance with respect to a synthetic compound. The results indicated that the P-gp activity of the cells cultured in the bioreactors was intrinsically lower, and that the effect of both natural and synthetic inhibitors was up modulated by the presence of flow. Our study underlies the fact that the use of more sophisticated and physiologically relevant in vitro models can bring new insights on the therapeutic effects of natural substances such as curcumin.
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