Hepatobiliary transport

J Hepatol. 2000;32(1 Suppl):3-18. doi: 10.1016/s0168-8278(00)80411-0.


The alterations of hepatobiliary transport that occur in cholestasis can be divided into primary defects, such as mutations of transporter genes or acquired dysfunctions of transport systems that cause defective canalicular or cholangiocellular secretion, and secondary defects, which result from biliary obstruction. The dysfunction of distinct biliary transport systems as a primary cause of cholestasis is exemplified by the genetic defects in progressive familial intrahepatic cholestasis or by the direct inhibition of transporter gene expression by cytokines. In both, the hepatocellular accumulation of toxic cholephilic compounds causes multiple alterations of hepatocellular transporter expression. In addition, lack of specific components of bile caused by a defective transporter, as in the case of mdr2/MDR3 deficiency, unmasks the toxic potential of other components. The production of bile is critically dependent upon the coordinated regulation and function of sinusoidal and canalicular transporters, for instance of Na+-taurocholate cotransporting polypeptide (NTCP) and bile salt export pump (BSEP). Whereas the downregulation of the unidirectional sinusoidal uptake system NTCP protects the hepatocyte from further intracellular accumulation of bile salts, the relative preservation of canalicular BSEP expression serves to uphold bile salt secretion, even in complete biliary obstruction. Conversely, the strong downregulation of canalicular MRP2 (MRP, multidrug resistance protein) in cholestasis forces the hepatocyte to upregulate basolateral efflux systems such as MRP3 and MRP1, indicating an inverse regulation of basolateral and apical transporters The regulation of hepatocellular transporters in cholestasis adheres to the law of parsimony, since many of the cellular mechanisms are pivotally governed by the effect of bile salts. The discovery that bile salts are the natural ligand of the farnesoid X receptor has shown us how the major bile component is able to regulate its own enterohepatic circulation by affecting transcription of the genes critically involved in transport and metabolism.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • ATP-Binding Cassette Transporters / metabolism
  • ATP-Binding Cassette Transporters / physiology
  • Animals
  • Bile / metabolism*
  • Bile Canaliculi / metabolism
  • Biliary Tract Diseases / metabolism
  • Biological Transport / physiology
  • Carrier Proteins / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Liver / metabolism*
  • Liver Diseases / metabolism


  • ATP-Binding Cassette Transporters
  • Carrier Proteins