Cholestasis: human disease and experimental animal models

Ann Hepatol. 2003 Oct-Dec;2(4):150-8.


Cholestasis may result from a failure in bile secretion in hepatocytes or ductular cells, or from a blockade to the free bile flow. Human cholestasis may be induced by many drugs, being antibiotics the more common. Other types of cholestasis seen in humans are a group of familial cholestatic disorders, obstructive cholestasis, primary biliary cirrhosis, extrahepatic biliary atresia, primary sclerosing cholangitis, cholestasis of pregnancy, oral contraceptive-induced cholestasis, and sepsis-induced cholestasis. Experimental animal models allow the understanding of pathophysiological mechanisms involved and their clinical correlates. The most common experimental models of intrahepatic cholestasis are estrogen-induced, endotoxin-induced and drug-induced cholestasis. A well known model of extrahepatic biliary obstruction is common bile duct ligation. Drug-induced cholestasis were described using different drugs. On this regard, alpha naphthylisothiocyanate treatment has been extensively used, permitting to describe not only cholestatic alterations but also compensatory mechanisms. Congenital defficiency of transport proteins also were studied in natural rat models of cholestasis. The experimental animal models allow to define down-regulated alterations of hepatocyte transport proteins, and up-regulated ones acting as compensatory mechanisms. In conclusion, animal model and transport protein studies are necessary for the progressive understanding of congenital and acquired human cholestasis, and regulatory mechanisms that operate on liver cells.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / adverse effects*
  • Biological Transport
  • Cholestasis / etiology
  • Cholestasis / genetics
  • Cholestasis / physiopathology*
  • Chromans / adverse effects
  • Contraceptives, Oral, Hormonal / adverse effects
  • Disease Models, Animal*
  • Estrogens / adverse effects*
  • Humans
  • Hypoglycemic Agents / adverse effects
  • Liver / metabolism*
  • Liver / pathology
  • Thiazolidinediones / adverse effects
  • Troglitazone


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Chromans
  • Contraceptives, Oral, Hormonal
  • Estrogens
  • Hypoglycemic Agents
  • Thiazolidinediones
  • Troglitazone