Role of vesicle-mediated transport pathways in hepatocellular bile secretion

Semin Liver Dis. 1996 May;16(2):169-89. doi: 10.1055/s-2007-1007230.


Bile formation by hepatocytes involves the secretion of organic and inorganic solutes derived from a number of intracellular sources. Plasma-to-bile trafficking of bile salts and proteins, in particular, is a major route for solute movement through the hepatocyte. Intracellular vesicle trafficking is the primary pathway for delivery of plasma proteins to bile, via either fluid-phase or receptor-mediated endocytosis. In contrast, bile salts do not appear to traffic via vesicles. Rather, bile salts appear to promote the insertion of vesicles containing the apical transport proteins into the hepatocyte canalicular membrane. Lysosomal protein also is released into bile by fusion of vesicles or possibly of tubular lysosomes with the canalicular membrane. Structural phospholipid is presumably delivered to the canalicular membrane as part of vesicular traffic, but biliary phosphatidylcholine molecules are more likely delivered via binding to cytosolic transfer proteins. Cholesterol may be delivered either via cystolic proteins or via vesicular trafficking, the latter in conjunction with sphingomyelin recycling to and from the canalicular membrane. Lastly, the primary mechanism for phospholipid secretion into bile appears to be the budding of phospholipid vesicles from the exoplasmic hemileaflet of the hepatocyte canalicular membrane. Thus, vesicle-mediated pathways play a major role in a number of bile secretory mechanisms.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bile / metabolism*
  • Bile Acids and Salts / metabolism
  • Bile Canaliculi / metabolism
  • Biological Transport, Active
  • Endocytosis
  • Humans
  • Lipid Metabolism
  • Liver / metabolism*
  • Proteins / metabolism
  • Rats


  • Bile Acids and Salts
  • Proteins