Enterohepatic bile salt transporters in normal physiology and liver disease

Gastroenterology. 2004 Jan;126(1):322-42. doi: 10.1053/j.gastro.2003.06.005.


The vectorial transport of bile salts from blood into bile is essential for the generation of bile flow, solubilization of cholesterol in bile, and emulsification of lipids in the intestine. Major transport proteins involved in the enterohepatic circulation of bile salts include the hepatocellular bile salt export pump (BSEP, ABCB11), the apical sodium-dependent bile salt transporter (ASBT, SLC10A2) in cholangiocytes and enterocytes, the sodium-dependent hepatocyte bile salt uptake system NTCP (SLC10A1), the organic anion transporting polypeptides OATP-C (SLC21A6), OATP8 (SLC21A8) and OATP-A (SLC21A3), and the multidrug resistance protein MRP3 (ABCC3). Synthesis and transport of bile salts are intricately linked processes that undergo extensive feedback and feed-forward regulation by transcriptional and posttranscriptional mechanisms. A key regulator of hepatocellular bile salt homeostasis is the bile acid receptor/farnesoid X receptor FXR, which activates transcription of the BSEP and OATP8 genes and of the small heterodimer partner 1 (SHP). SHP is a transcriptional repressor that mediates bile acid-induced repression of the bile salt uptake systems rat Ntcp and human OATP-C. A nuclear receptor that activates rodent Oatp2 (Slc21a5) and human MRP2 (ABCC2) is the pregnane X receptor/steroid X receptor PXR/SXR. Intracellular trafficking and membrane insertion of bile salt transporters is regulated by lipid, protein, and extracellular signal-related kinases in response to physiologic stimuli such as cyclic adenosine monophosphate or taurocholate. Finally, dysfunction of individual bile salt transporters such as BSEP, on account of genetic mutations, steric inhibition, suppression of gene expression, or disturbed signaling, is an important cause of cholestatic liver disease.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bile Acids and Salts / metabolism*
  • Carrier Proteins / blood*
  • Carrier Proteins / metabolism
  • Enterohepatic Circulation*
  • Humans
  • Liver / metabolism
  • Liver Diseases / blood*
  • Multidrug Resistance-Associated Protein 2
  • Protein Processing, Post-Translational


  • ABCC2 protein, human
  • Bile Acids and Salts
  • Carrier Proteins
  • Multidrug Resistance-Associated Protein 2