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J Biol Chem. 2001 Mar 30;276(13):9626-30. Epub 2000 Dec 27.

Hepatic uptake of bilirubin and its conjugates by the human organic anion transporter SLC21A6.

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Division of Tumor Biochemistry, Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum, D-69120 Heidelberg, Germany.


Bilirubin, the end product of heme catabolism, is taken up from the blood circulation into the liver. This work identifies a high-affinity transport protein mediating the uptake of bilirubin and its conjugates into human hepatocytes. Human embryonic kidney cells (HEK293) permanently expressing the recombinant organic anion-transporting polypeptide 2 (human OATP2, also known as LST-1 or OATP-C; symbol SLC21A6) showed uptake of [(3)H]monoglucuronosyl bilirubin, [(3)H]bisglucuronosyl bilirubin, and [(3)H]sulfobromophthalein with K(m) values of 0.10, 0.28, and 0.14 microm, respectively. High-affinity uptake of unconjugated [(3)H]bilirubin by OATP2 occurred in the presence of albumin and was not mediated by another basolateral hepatic uptake transporter, human OATP8 (symbol SLC21A8). OATP2 and OATP8 differed by their capacity to extract substrates from albumin before transport. In comparison to the high-affinity transport by OATP2, OATP8 transported [(3)H]sulfobromophthalein and [(3)H]monoglucuronosyl bilirubin with lower affinity, with K(m) values of 3.3 and 0.5 microm, respectively. The organic anion indocyanine green potently inhibited transport mediated by OATP2, with a K(i) value of 112 nm, but did not inhibit transport mediated by OATP8. Human OATP2 may play a key role in the prevention of hyperbilirubinemia by facilitating the selective entry of unconjugated bilirubin and its glucuronate conjugates into human hepatocytes.

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