Research ArticleDRUG MECHANISM

NPC1L1 is a key regulator of intestinal vitamin K absorption and a modulator of warfarin therapy

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Science Translational Medicine  18 Feb 2015:
Vol. 7, Issue 275, pp. 275ra23
DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.3010329

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Vitamin K (VK) is a micronutrient that facilitates blood coagulation. VK antagonists, such as warfarin, are used in the clinic to prevent thromboembolism. Because VK is not synthesized in the body, its intestinal absorption is crucial for maintaining whole-body VK levels. However, the molecular mechanism of this absorption is unclear. We demonstrate that Niemann-Pick C1-like 1 (NPC1L1) protein, a cholesterol transporter, plays a central role in intestinal VK uptake and modulates the anticoagulant effect of warfarin. In vitro studies using NPC1L1-overexpressing intestinal cells and in vivo studies with Npc1l1-knockout mice revealed that intestinal VK absorption is NPC1L1-dependent and inhibited by ezetimibe, an NPC1L1-selective inhibitor clinically used for dyslipidemia. In addition, in vivo pharmacological studies demonstrated that the coadministration of ezetimibe and warfarin caused a reduction in hepatic VK levels and enhanced the pharmacological effect of warfarin. Adverse events caused by the coadministration of ezetimibe and warfarin were rescued by oral VK supplementation, suggesting that the drug-drug interaction effects observed were the consequence of ezetimibe-mediated VK malabsorption. This mechanism was supported by a retrospective evaluation of clinical data showing that, in more than 85% of warfarin-treated patients, the anticoagulant activity was enhanced by cotreatment with ezetimibe. Our findings provide insight into the molecular mechanism of VK absorption. This new drug-drug interaction mechanism between ezetimibe (a cholesterol transport inhibitor) and warfarin (a VK antagonist and anticoagulant) could inform clinical care of patients on these medications, such as by altering the kinetics of essential, fat-soluble vitamins.

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