Background & aims: Hepatic bile salt secretion is an essential function of vertebrate liver. Rat and mouse bile salt export pump (Bsep) are adenosine triphosphate (ATP)-dependent bile salt transporters. Mutations in human BSEP were identified as the cause of progressive familial intrahepatic cholestasis type 2. BSEP protein is highly identical with its rat and mouse orthologs and has not yet been functionally characterized; the effect of BSEP mutations on its function has also not been studied. Therefore, the aim of this study was to functionally characterize human BSEP.
Methods: Complementary DNA for BSEP was isolated from human liver and expressed with the baculovirus system in Sf9 cells. ATP-dependent bile salt transport assays were performed with Sf9 cell vesicles expressing BSEP and a rapid filtration assay.
Results: Cloning of human BSEP required the inactivation of a bacterial cryptic promoter motif within its coding region. BSEP expressed in Sf9 cells transports different bile salts in an ATP-dependent manner with Michaelis constant values as follows: taurocholate, 7.9 +/- 2.1 micromol/L; glycocholate, 11.1 +/- 3.3 micromol/L; taurochenodeoxycholate, 4.8 +/- 1.7 micromol/L; tauroursodeoxycholate, 11.9 +/- 1.8 micromol/L. The rank order of the intrinsic clearance of bile salts was taurochenodeoxycholate > taurocholate > tauroursodeoxycholate > glycocholate.
Conclusions: This study characterizes human BSEP as an ATP-dependent bile salt export pump with transport properties similar to its rat and mouse orthologs. Expression of BSEP in Sf9 cells will enable functional characterization of the consequences of mutations in the human BSEP gene.