Progressive familial intrahepatic cholestasis type 2 (PFIC2) is caused by a mutation in the bile salt export pump (BSEP/ABCB11) gene. We previously reported that E297G and D482G BSEP, which are frequently found mutations in European patients, result in impaired membrane trafficking, whereas both mutants retain their transport function. The dysfunctional localization is probably attributable to the retention of BSEP in endoplasmic reticulum (ER) followed by proteasomal degradation. Because sodium 4-phenylbutyrate (4PBA) has been shown to restore the reduced cell surface expression of mutated plasma membrane proteins, in the current study, we investigated the effect of 4PBA treatment on E297G and D482G BSEP. Transcellular transport and cell surface biotinylation studies using Madin-Darby canine kidney (MDCK) II cells demonstrated that 4PBA treatment increased functional cell surface expression of wild-type (WT), E297G, and D482G BSEP. The prolonged half-life of cell surface-resident BSEP with 4PBA treatment was responsible for this result. Moreover, treatment of Sprague-Dawley rats with 4PBA resulted in an increase in BSEP expression at the canalicular membrane, which was accompanied by an increase in the biliary excretion of [(3)H]taurocholic acid (TC).
Conclusion: 4PBA treatment with a clinically achievable concentration enhances the cell surface expression and the transport capacity of WT, E297G, and D482G BSEP in MDCK II cells, and also induces functional BSEP expression at the canalicular membrane and bile acid transport via canalicular membrane in vivo. 4PBA is a potential pharmacological agent for treating not only PFIC2 patients with E297G and D482G mutations but also other cholestatic patients, in whom the BSEP expression at the canalicular membrane is reduced.