Solute Carrier Organic Anion Transporter Family Member 3A1 Is a Bile Acid Efflux Transporter in Cholestasis

Gastroenterology. 2018 Nov;155(5):1578-1592.e16. doi: 10.1053/j.gastro.2018.07.031. Epub 2018 Jul 29.


Background & aims: Bile acid transporters maintain bile acid homeostasis. Little is known about the functions of some transporters in cholestasis or their regulatory mechanism. We investigated the hepatic expression of solute carrier organic anion transporter family member 3A1 (SLCO3A1, also called OATP3A1) and assessed its functions during development of cholestasis.

Methods: We measured levels of OATP3A1 protein and messenger RNA and localized the protein in liver tissues from 22 patients with cholestasis and 21 patients without cholestasis, using real-time quantitative polymerase chain reaction, immunoblot, and immunofluorescence analyses. We performed experiments with Slco3a1-knockout and C57BL/6J (control) mice. Mice and Sprague-Dawley rats underwent bile duct ligation (BDL) or a sham operation. Some mice were placed on a 1% cholic acid (CA) diet to induce cholestasis or on a control diet. Serum and liver tissues were collected and analyzed; hepatic levels of bile acids and 7-α-C4 were measured using liquid chromatography/mass spectrometry. Human primary hepatocytes and hepatoma (PLC/PRF/5) cell lines were used to study mechanisms that regulate OATP3A1 expression and transport.

Results: Hepatic levels of OATP3A1 messenger RNA and protein were significantly increased in liver tissues from patients with cholestasis and from rodents with BDL or 1% CA diet-induced cholestasis. Levels of fibroblast growth factor 19 (FGF19, FGF15 in rodents) were also increased in liver tissues from patients and rodents with cholestasis. FGF19 signaling activated the Sp1 transcription factor and nuclear factor κB to increase expression of OATP3A1 in hepatocytes; we found binding sites for these factors in the SLCO3A1 promoter. Slco3a1-knockout mice had shorter survival times and increased hepatic levels of bile acid, and they developed more liver injury after the 1% CA diet or BDL than control mice. In hepatoma cell lines, we found OATP3A1 to take prostaglandin E2 and thyroxine into cells and efflux bile acids.

Conclusions: We found levels of OATP3A1 to be increased in cholestatic liver tissues from patients and rodents compared with healthy liver tissues. We show that OATP3A1 functions as a bile acid efflux transporter that is up-regulated as an adaptive response to cholestasis.

Keywords: Bile Acid Transporters; Extracellular Signal–Regulated Kinase (ERK); Fibroblast Growth Factor (FGF) 19; Organic Anion Transporting Polypeptides (OATPs).

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bile Acids and Salts / metabolism*
  • Cholestasis / metabolism*
  • Extracellular Signal-Regulated MAP Kinases / physiology
  • Fibroblast Growth Factors / analysis
  • Fibroblast Growth Factors / physiology
  • Humans
  • Liver / chemistry
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Organic Anion Transporters / analysis
  • Organic Anion Transporters / physiology*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Signal Transduction
  • Sp1 Transcription Factor / physiology
  • Transcription Factor RelA / physiology


  • Bile Acids and Salts
  • FGF19 protein, human
  • Organic Anion Transporters
  • SLCO3A1 protein, human
  • Sp1 Transcription Factor
  • Transcription Factor RelA
  • Fibroblast Growth Factors
  • Extracellular Signal-Regulated MAP Kinases