Blood-Placental Barrier Transfers and Pharmacokinetics of Unbound Morphine in Pregnant Rats with Multiple Microdialysis Systems

I. Hsin Lin, Ling Yang, Thomas Y. Hsueh, Tung Hu Tsai*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Microdialysis coupled to an analytical system can be used to continuously monitor unbound protein analytes in any biological fluid, tissue, or organ of animals. To date, no application of microdialysis has been performed to simultaneously monitor unbound morphine and its metabolites in the placenta and fetus of pregnant rats. Our hypothesis is that morphine and its metabolite penetrate the blood-placental barrier to reach the fetus during pregnancy. To investigate this hypothesis, this study aimed to develop a microdialysis experimental animal model coupled with an analytical system to monitor morphine and morphine-3-glucuronide (M3G) in the maternal blood, placenta, fetus, and amniotic fluid of pregnant rats. To determine the analytes in dialysates, a validated ultra-high-performance liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (UHPLC-MS/MS) method was developed. The pharmacokinetic results indicated that morphine fit well to a two-compartment model and exhibited nonlinear pharmacokinetic behavior within the dosage regimen. The M3G-to-morphine metabolite ratio, determined by the area under the concentration curve (AUC) ratio (AUCM3G/AUCmorphine), was approximately 5.40 in the maternal blood. In terms of tissue distribution, the mother-to-fetus transfer ratio (AUCfetus/AUCblood) of morphine and M3G was about 0.34 and 0.18, respectively. In conclusion, the high metabolite ratio suggests that morphine has the characteristics of rapid biotransformation, and the mother-to-fetus transfer ratio indicates that morphine and M3G partially transfer the blood-placental barrier in pregnant rats. This newly developed multiple microdialysis coupled to UHPLC-MS/MS system can be applied to the studies of maternal pharmacokinetics and blood-placental transfer in pregnant rats.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1588–1597
Number of pages10
JournalACS Pharmacology and Translational Science
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2021


  • blood-placental barrier
  • microdialysis
  • morphine
  • pharmacokinetics
  • transplacental transfer


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