Bile salt transporters: molecular characterization, function, and regulation

Physiol Rev. 2003 Apr;83(2):633-71. doi: 10.1152/physrev.00027.2002.


Molecular medicine has led to rapid advances in the characterization of hepatobiliary transport systems that determine the uptake and excretion of bile salts and other biliary constituents in the liver and extrahepatic tissues. The bile salt pool undergoes an enterohepatic circulation that is regulated by distinct bile salt transport proteins, including the canalicular bile salt export pump BSEP (ABCB11), the ileal Na(+)-dependent bile salt transporter ISBT (SLC10A2), and the hepatic sinusoidal Na(+)- taurocholate cotransporting polypeptide NTCP (SLC10A1). Other bile salt transporters include the organic anion transporting polypeptides OATPs (SLC21A) and the multidrug resistance-associated proteins 2 and 3 MRP2,3 (ABCC2,3). Bile salt transporters are also present in cholangiocytes, the renal proximal tubule, and the placenta. Expression of these transport proteins is regulated by both transcriptional and posttranscriptional events, with the former involving nuclear hormone receptors where bile salts function as specific ligands. During bile secretory failure (cholestasis), bile salt transport proteins undergo adaptive responses that serve to protect the liver from bile salt retention and which facilitate extrahepatic routes of bile salt excretion. This review is a comprehensive summary of current knowledge of the molecular characterization, function, and regulation of bile salt transporters in normal physiology and in cholestatic liver disease and liver regeneration.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • ATP Binding Cassette Transporter, Subfamily B, Member 11
  • ATP-Binding Cassette Transporters / genetics
  • ATP-Binding Cassette Transporters / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Bile Acids and Salts / metabolism*
  • Biological Transport
  • Cholestasis / genetics
  • Cholestasis / metabolism
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Humans
  • Liver Regeneration
  • Multidrug Resistance-Associated Protein 2


  • ABCB11 protein, human
  • ABCC2 protein, human
  • ATP Binding Cassette Transporter, Subfamily B, Member 11
  • ATP-Binding Cassette Transporters
  • Bile Acids and Salts
  • Multidrug Resistance-Associated Protein 2