Biliary cholesterol secretion: more than a simple ABC

World J Gastroenterol. 2010 Dec 21;16(47):5936-45. doi: 10.3748/wjg.v16.i47.5936.


Biliary cholesterol secretion is a process important for 2 major disease complexes, atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease and cholesterol gallstone disease. With respect to cardiovascular disease, biliary cholesterol secretion is regarded as the final step for the elimination of cholesterol originating from cholesterol-laden macrophage foam cells in the vessel wall in a pathway named reverse cholesterol transport. On the other hand, cholesterol hypersecretion into the bile is considered the main pathophysiological determinant of cholesterol gallstone formation. This review summarizes current knowledge on the origins of cholesterol secreted into the bile as well as the relevant processes and transporters involved. Next to the established ATP-binding cassette (ABC) transporters mediating the biliary secretion of bile acids (ABCB11), phospholipids (ABCB4) and cholesterol (ABCG5/G8), special attention is given to emerging proteins that modulate or mediate biliary cholesterol secretion. In this regard, the potential impact of the phosphatidylserine flippase ATPase class I type 8B member 1, the Niemann Pick C1-like protein 1 that mediates cholesterol absorption and the high density lipoprotein cholesterol uptake receptor, scavenger receptor class B type I, is discussed.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • ATP-Binding Cassette Transporters / metabolism
  • Bile / chemistry*
  • Bile Acids and Salts / metabolism
  • Cholesterol / metabolism*
  • Gallbladder / metabolism
  • Gallstones / chemistry
  • Gallstones / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Lipoproteins / chemistry
  • Liver / metabolism
  • Phospholipids / metabolism


  • ATP-Binding Cassette Transporters
  • Bile Acids and Salts
  • Lipoproteins
  • Phospholipids
  • Cholesterol