Mouse models of cystic fibrosis (CF) indicate that sulfotransferase (SULT) 1E1 is significantly induced in livers of many mice lacking cystic fibrosis transmembrane receptor (CFTR) activity. Increased SULT1E1 activity results in the alteration of estrogen-regulated protein expression in the livers of these mice. In this study, human MMNK-1 cholangiocytes with repressed CFTR function were used to induce SULT1E1 expression in human HepG2 hepatocytes to investigate whether SULT1E1 can be increased in human CF liver. CFTR expression was inhibited in MMNK-1 cholangiocytes using CFTR-siRNA, then the MMNK-1 and HepG2 cells were co-cultured in a membrane-separated Transwell system. Expression of SULT1E1 and selected estrogen-regulated proteins were then assayed in the HepG2 cells. Results demonstrate that inhibition of CFTR expression in MMNK-1 cells results in the induction of SULT1E1 message and activity in HepG2 cells in the Transwell system. The expression of estrogen-regulated proteins including insulin-like growth factor (IGF)-1, glutathione-S-transferase (GST) P1 and carbonic anhydrase (CA) II expression are repressed in the HepG2 cells cultured with the CFTR-siRNA-MMNK-1 cells apparently in response to the increased sulfation of beta-estradiol. Thus, we have shown that co-culture of HepG2 hepatocytes with MMNK-1 cholangiocytes with siRNA repressed CFTR expression results in the selective induction of SULT1E1 in the HepG2 cells. Loss of CFTR function in cholangiocytes may have a paracrine regulatory effect on hepatocytes via the induction of SULT1E1 and the increased sulfation of beta-estradiol. Experiments are presently underway in our laboratory to elucidate the identity of these paracrine regulatory factors.