Dynamic localization of hepatocellular transporters in health and disease

World J Gastroenterol. 2008 Nov 28;14(44):6786-801. doi: 10.3748/wjg.14.6786.


Vesicle-based trafficking of hepatocellular transporters involves delivery of the newly-synthesized carriers from the rough endoplasmic reticulum to either the plasma membrane domain or to an endosomal, submembrane compartment, followed by exocytic targeting to the plasma membrane. Once delivered to the plasma membrane, the transporters usually undergo recycling between the plasma membrane and the endosomal compartment, which usually serves as a reservoir of pre-existing transporters available on demand. The balance between exocytic targeting and endocytic internalization from/to this recycling compartment is therefore a chief determinant of the overall capability of the liver epithelium to secrete bile and to detoxify endo and xenobiotics. Hence, it is a highly regulated process. Impaired regulation of this balance may lead to abnormal localization of these transporters, which results in bile secretory failure due to endocytic internalization of key transporters involved in bile formation. This occurs in several experimental models of hepatocellular cholestasis, and in most human cholestatic liver diseases. This review describes the molecular bases involved in the biology of the dynamic localization of hepatocellular transporters and its regulation, with a focus on the involvement of signaling pathways in this process. Their alterations in different experimental models of cholestasis and in human cholestatic liver disease are reviewed. In addition, the causes explaining the pathological condition (e.g. disorganization of actin or actin-transporter linkers) and the mediators involved (e.g. activation of cholestatic signaling transduction pathways) are also discussed. Finally, several experimental therapeutic approaches based upon the administration of compounds known to stimulate exocytic insertion of canalicular transporters (e.g. cAMP, tauroursodeoxycholate) are described.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bile / metabolism
  • Cell Membrane / metabolism
  • Cholagogues and Choleretics / therapeutic use
  • Cholestasis / drug therapy
  • Cholestasis / metabolism*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Endocytosis
  • Endoplasmic Reticulum, Rough / metabolism
  • Endosomes / metabolism
  • Exocytosis
  • Humans
  • Liver / drug effects
  • Liver / metabolism*
  • Membrane Transport Proteins / drug effects
  • Membrane Transport Proteins / metabolism*
  • Protein Transport
  • Signal Transduction
  • Xenobiotics / metabolism


  • Cholagogues and Choleretics
  • Membrane Transport Proteins
  • Xenobiotics