In most cholestatic liver diseases the cause of the disease is not known and therapy can only be directed toward suppression of the pathogenetic processes and amelioration of the consequences of cholestasis. The recognition of adaptive-compensatory responses to cholestasis has become of major importance. They tend to minimize retention of bile acids and other potentially toxic solutes in the hepatocyte by limiting hepatocellular uptake, reducing bile acid synthesis, stimulating detoxification, and up-regulating alternative pathways for excretion. Some of the drugs used for the treatment of cholestatic liver diseases in an empiric way turned out to be modulators of nuclear receptors, which regulate these adaptive-compensatory responses. New drugs are being designed and tested along these lines and may be regarded as treatment opportunities of the future.