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J Hepatol. 2003 Feb;38(2):148-55.

Down-regulation of the Na+/taurocholate cotransporting polypeptide during pregnancy in the rat.

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  • 1Department of Gastroenterology, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, School of Medicine, Marcoleta # 367, Santiago 6510260, Chile.



Experimental studies have shown decreased bile acid (BA) uptake and reduced excretion of cholephilic compounds in pregnant rodents.


To assess the expression and function of the main BA importer, the Na(+)/taurocholate cotransporting polypeptide (Ntcp) in pregnant rats.


BA uptake and Ntcp expression were studied in control and timed-pregnant rats in late gestation. Ntcp protein, messenger RNA (mRNA) expression, and Ntcp tissue localization were determined by Northern blotting, Western analysis, and tissue immunofluorescence. The activity of three transactivators of the Ntcp promoter: hepatocyte nuclear factor 1-alpha (HNF1-alpha), nuclear receptor heterodimer retinoid X receptor:retinoid acid receptor (RXR:RAR) and signal transducer and activator of transcription 5 (Stat5) was assessed using gel electrophoretic mobility shift assays.


A significantly reduced BA uptake and decreased Ntcp mRNA levels (-40%) and protein mass (-60%) was observed in pregnant rats. Nuclear extracts from pregnant rats showed a marked decrease of HNF1-alpha and RXR:RAR binding activities by -80 and -40% of basal activity, respectively. In contrast, binding activity of Stat-5 was increased by 50% in nuclear extracts from pregnant rats.


Pregnancy is associated with reduced Ntcp expression and function in the rat. Our findings suggest that Ntcp down-regulation during pregnancy occurs primarily at the transcriptional level.

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