Functional expression of sinusoidal and canalicular hepatic drug transporters in the differentiated human hepatoma HepaRG cell line

Eur J Pharm Sci. 2006 May;28(1-2):109-17. doi: 10.1016/j.ejps.2006.01.004. Epub 2006 Feb 20.


Functional expression of both sinusoidal and canalicular hepatic drug transporters was investigated in the highly differentiated human hepatoma HepaRG cell line and also, for comparison, in primary human hepatocytes and in the hepatoma HepG2 cell line. Using RT-qPCR assays, differentiated HepaRG cells were found to display a pattern of transporter expression close to that found in primary human hepatocytes, i.e. they exhibit substantial mRNA levels of the influx transporters OCT1, OATP-B, OATP-C and NTCP, and of the secretion transporters MRP2, MRP3, BSEP and P-glycoprotein. By contrast, expression of influx transporters was not present or very weak in HepG2 cells. Drug transport assays allowed to detect functional activities of OCT1, OATPs/OAT2, NTCP, MRPs and P-glycoprotein in differentiated HepaRG cells as in primary human hepatocytes whereas HepG2 cells only showed notable MRP and P-glycoprotein activities. In addition, expression of canalicular transporters in HepaRG cells was found to be up-regulated by known inducers of transporters such as rifampicin, phenobarbital and chenodeoxycholate acting on P-glycoprotein, MRP2 and BSEP, respectively. HepaRG cells thus exhibit functional expression of both sinusoidal and canalicular drug transporters and have retained regulatory pathways controlling transporter levels. These data, associated with the known high expression of drug metabolizing enzymes in HepaRG cells, highlight the interest of such hepatoma cells for analysing hepatic drug detoxification pathways.

MeSH terms

  • Bile Canaliculi / metabolism
  • Biological Transport, Active
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / metabolism*
  • Carrier Proteins / biosynthesis*
  • Carrier Proteins / metabolism
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Hepatocytes / metabolism
  • Humans
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Liver / metabolism*
  • Liver Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • RNA, Messenger / biosynthesis
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction


  • Carrier Proteins
  • RNA, Messenger