An increasingly complex picture has emerged in recent years regarding the bile salt transport polarity of hepatocytes. At the sinusoidal (or basolateral) plasma membrane two bile salt-transporting polypeptides have been cloned. The Na(+)-taurocholate-cotransporting polypeptide (Ntcp) can account for most, if not all, physiological properties of the Na(+)-dependent bile salt uptake function in mammalian hepatocytes. The cloned organic anion-transporting protein (Oatp1) can mediate Na(+)-independent transport of bile salts, sulfobromophthalein, estrogen conjugates, and a variety of other amphipathic cholephilic compounds. Hence, Oatp1 appears to correspond to the previously suggested basolateral multispecific bile sale transporter. Intracellular bile salt transport can be mediated by different pathways. Under basal bile salt flux conditions, conjugated trihydroxy bile salts bind to cytoplasmic binding proteins and reach the canalicular plasma membrane predominantly via cytoplasmic diffusion. More hydrophobic mono- and dihydroxy and high concentrations of trihydroxy bile salts associate with intracellular membrane-bound compartments, including transcytotic vesicles, endoplasmic reticulum (ER), and Golgi complex. A facilitated bile salt diffusion pathway has been demonstrated in the ER. The exact role of these and other (e.g., lysosomes, "tubulovesicular structures") organelles in overall vectorial transport of bile salts across hepatocytes is not yet known. Canalicular bile salt secretion is mediated by two ATP-dependent transport systems, one for monovalent bile salts and the second for divalent sulfated or glucuronidated bile salt conjugates. The latter is identical with the canalicular multispecific organic anion transporter, which also transports other divalent organic anions, such as glutathione S-conjugates. Potential dependent canalicular bile salt secretion has also been suggested to occur, but its exact mechanism and physiological significance remain unclear, since a potential driven bile salt uptake system has also been identified in the ER. Hypothetically, and similar to changes in cell volume, the intracellular potential could also play a role in the regulation of the number of bile salt carriers at the canalicular membrane and thereby indirectly influence the maximal canalicular bile salt transport capacity of hepatocytes.