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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

PKQuest: a general physiologically based pharmacokinetic model. Introduction and application to propranolol

David G Levitt

Author Affiliations

Department of Physiology, 6-125 Jackson Hall, 321 Church St. S. E., Minneapolis, MN 55455, USA

BMC Clinical Pharmacology 2002, 2:5  doi:10.1186/1472-6904-2-5

Published: 15 August 2002



A "physiologically based pharmacokinetic" (PBPK) approach uses a realistic model of the animal to describe the pharmacokinetics. Previous PBPKs have been designed for specific solutes, required specification of a large number of parameters and have not been designed for general use.


This new PBPK program (PKQuest) includes a "Standardhuman" and "Standardrat" data set so that the user input is minimized. It has a simple user interface, graphical output and many new features: 1) An option that uses the measured plasma concentrations to solve for the time course of the gastrointestinal, intramuscular, intraperotineal or skin absorption and systemic availability of a drug – for a general non-linear system. 2) Capillary permeability limitation defined in terms of the permeability-surface area products. 4) Saturable plasma and tissue protein binding. 5) A lung model that includes perfusion-ventilation mismatch. 6) A general optimization routine using either a global (simulated annealing) or local (Powell) minimization applicable to all model parameters.


PKQuest was applied to measurements of human propranolol pharmacokinetics and intestinal absorption. A meal has two effects: 1) increases portal blood flow by 50%; and 2) decreases liver metabolism by 20%. There is a significant delay in the oval propranolol absorption in fasting subjects that is absent in fed subjects. The oral absorption of the long acting form of propranolol continues for a period of more than 24 hours.


PKQuest provides a new general purpose, easy to use, freely distributed webcite and physiologically rigorous PBPK software routine.