Written by Christine Madla

A rat is not a rat

Wistar and Sprague Dawley are the most common strains of rat used in pharmaceutical research and are used interchangeably in pre-clinical drug development. No studies have assessed whether Wistar and Sprague Dawley rats are equivalent in the gastrointestinal factors that influence oral drug absorption, specifically in relation to intestinal transporters. Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) and liquid chromatography–tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) are two reliable methods for quantifying intestinal protein levels with their own distinct advantages and limitations.

Our study

In this study, P-glycoprotein (P-gp), a key efflux transporter, was quantified using ELISA and LC-MS/MS along the complete intestinal tract of male and female Wistar and Sprague Dawley rats. This work presents that Sprague Dawley rats have innately higher baseline P-gp expression than Wistar rats. Significant sex differences in P-gp expression were identified in the jejunum, ileum and colon between male and female Wistar rats using both techniques, with males exhibiting higher P-gp levels. Sprague Dawley rats showed no sex differences in P-gp expression through ELISA and LC-MS/MS. Both methods demonstrated similar trends for P-gp quantification, but ELISA could offer faster data acquisition.

Impact on pre-clinical trials

Our findings report significant sex differences between the strains and highlight that Wistar and Sprague Dawley rats are not equivalent in their P-gp expression. As humans exhibit distinct sex differences in intestinal P-gp levels, Wistar rats may therefore be a more suitable pre-clinical animal strain to model oral drug absorption of P-gp substrates in male and female subjects.

Read our open access paper here.