The disposition kinetics of [3H]taurocholate ([3H]TC) in perfused normal and cholestatic rat livers were studied using the multiple indicator dilution technique and several physiologically based pharmacokinetic models. The serum biochemistry levels, the outflow profiles and biliary recovery of [3H]TC were measured in three experimental groups: (i) control; (ii) 17 alpha-ethynylestradiol (EE)-treated (low dose); and (iii) EE-treated (high dose) rats. EE treatment caused cholestasis in a dose-dependent manner. A hepatobiliary TC transport model, which recognizes capillary mixing, active cellular uptake, and active efflux into bile and plasma described the disposition of [3H]TC in the normal and cholestatic livers better than the other pharmacokinetic models. An estimated five- and 18-fold decrease in biliary elimination rate constant, 1.7- and 2.7-fold increase in hepatocyte to plasma efflux rate constant, and 1.8- and 2.8-fold decrease in [3H]TC biliary recovery ratio was found in moderate and severe cholestasis, respectively, relative to normal. There were good correlations between the predicted and observed pharmacokinetic parameters of [3H]TC based on liver pathophysiology (e.g. serum bilirubin level and biliary excretion of [3H]TC). In conclusion, these results show that altered hepatic TC pharmacokinetics in cholestatic rat livers can be correlated with the relevant changes in liver pathophysiology in cholestasis.