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In Silico Prediction of Brain Exposure: Drug Free Fraction, Unbound Brain to Plasma Concentration Ratio and Equilibrium Half-Life

[ Vol. 13 , Issue. 7 ]


Morena Spreafico and Matthew P. Jacobson   Pages 813 - 820 ( 8 )


The focus of CNS drug pharmacokinetics programs has recently shifted from determining the total concentrations in brain and blood to considering also unbound fractions and concentrations. Unfortunately, assessing unbound brain exposure experimentally requires demanding in vivo and in vitro studies.

We propose a physical model, based on lipid binding and pH partitioning, to predict in silico the unbound volume of distribution in the brain. The model takes into account the partition of a drug into lipids, interstitial fluid and intracellular compartments of the brain. The results are in good agreement with the experimental data, suggesting that the contributions of lipid binding and pH partitioning are important in determining drug exposure in brain. The predicted values are used, together with predictions for plasma protein binding, as corrective terms in a second model to derive the unbound brain to plasma concentration ratio starting from experimental values of total concentration ratio. The calculated values of brain free fraction and passive permeability are also used to qualitatively determine the brain to plasma equilibration time in a model that shows promising results but is limited to a very small set of compounds.

The models we propose are a step forward in understanding and predicting pharmacologically relevant exposure in brain starting from compounds’ chemical structure and neuropharmacokinetics, by using experimental total brain to plasma ratios, in silico calculated properties and simple physics-based approaches. The models can be used in central nervous system drug discovery programs for a fast and cheap assessment of unbound brain exposure. For existing compounds, the unbound ratios can be derived from experimental values of total brain to plasma ratios. For both existing and hypothetical compounds, the unbound volume of distribution due to lipid binding and pH partitioning can be calculated starting only from the chemical structure.


Brain equilibration time, Brain unbound volume of distribution, CNS exposure; Unbound brain to plasma concentration ratio.


Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry, University of California, San Francisco, 1700 4th Street, San Francisco, CA 94158, USA.

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