1.Previous studies have indicated that the permeability of polyethyleneglycol across the human intestine is anomalously high in comparison with the permeability of sugars with similar molecular mass. In consequence it has been proposed that two or more distinct mechanisms must exist for the translocation of these classes of molecule or, alternatively, that the molecular parameter determining rate of penetration is each molecule's minimum molecular dimension.
2.The notional hydrogen-bonding capacity of a molecule correlates well with oil–water partition coefficient and also, in a variety of experimental systems, with rate of passive diffusion across biological membranes. A molecule's hydrogen-bonding capacity is calculated by inspecting the structural formula and summing the individual theory-derived hydrogen-bonding capacities of the molecule's functional groups.
3.A classic set of intestinal permeability data that includes several ethyleneglycol oligomers and several sugars is re-analysed. A good correlation between permeability and hydrogen-bonding capacity is demonstrated. Specifically, there is no discontinuity between the polyethyleneglycols and the sugars. The data are compatible with a simple model in which all the molecules studied cross the intestine by passive diffusion across cellular membranes.