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Biochem J. 2001 Aug 15;358(Pt 1):1-5.

Stimulation of ATP secretion in the liver by therapeutic bile acids.

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  • 1Department of Medicine, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT 06520-8019, USA.


ATP receptors are ubiquitously expressed and are potential targets for the therapy of a number of disorders. However, delivery of ATP or other nucleotides to specific tissues is problematic, and no pharmacological means to stimulate the release of endogenous ATP has been described. We examined the effects of the bile acid ursodeoxycholic acid (UDCA) on ATP release into bile, since this bile acid is the only agent known to be of therapeutic benefit in secretory disorders of the liver, and since its mechanism of action is not established. Both UDCA and its taurine conjugate stimulated secretion of ATP by isolated rat hepatocytes, and produced measurable increases in ATP in bile of isolated rat liver. Perfusion of ATP into microdissected bile-duct segments induced Ca(2+) signalling in bile-duct epithelia, while perfusion of bile acid did not. Thus UDCA may promote bile flow by inducing hepatocytes to release ATP into bile, which then stimulates fluid and electrolyte secretion by bile-duct epithelia downstream via changes in cytosolic Ca(2+). Moreover, these findings demonstrate the feasibility of using pharmacological means to induce secretion of endogenous ATP. Since the liver and other epithelial organs express luminal ATP receptors, these findings more generally suggest that a mechanism exists for pharmacological activation of this paracrine signalling pathway. This strategy may be useful for treatment of cystic fibrosis and other secretory disorders of the liver and other epithelial tissues.

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