The hepatic expression of the ATP-dependent conjugate export pump multidrug resistance-associated protein 2 (Mrp2) is diminished in experimentally induced models of cholestasis. In this study we have examined the localization and expression of Mrp3, another member of the multidrug resistance-associated protein family, in normal liver and after obstructive cholestasis in the rat. Indirect immunofluorescence and confocal microscopy were used to determine the tissue localization and Western blot analysis was performed to quantitate the expression. In normal rat liver Mrp3 was found on the basolateral membrane of cholangiocytes and a single layer of hepatocytes surrounding the central vein. Three and 7 days after bile duct ligation Mrp3 expression was significantly increased, predominantly in hepatocytes in the pericentral region. By 14 days all hepatocytes showed basolateral membrane labeling for Mrp3 at a time when apical Mrp2 staining was significantly diminished. Proliferating bile ducts continued to stain positive, although the intensity of staining did not seem to vary. After 14 days Western blot quantitation showed that Mrp3 had increased approximately 30-fold in total liver membranes. Quantitation of Mrp3 in membranes from isolated hepatocytes of livers of sham and common bile duct-ligated (CBDL) animals showed a significant up-regulation beginning at 1 day and continuing to increase through 14 days postligation. This was in contrast to the progressive decrease in Mrp2 protein. Because Mrp3 is capable of transporting toxic bile acids, up-regulation of Mrp3 may compensate for the down-regulation of Mrp2 in obstructive cholestasis.