Tauroursodeoxycholic acid (TUDCA) is a cytoprotective bile acid frequently prescribed to patients with cholestatic diseases. Several mechanisms of action have been investigated, but the possibility that cyclic adenosine monophosphate responsive element binding protein (CREB), a transcription factor promoting cell survival, mediates TUDCA's protective effects has not been considered. We examined whether TUDCA activates CREB and whether this activation can protect biliary epithelial cells. Cholangiocytes were stressed by exposure to CCI-779, which inhibits signaling though the kinase mTOR (mammalian target of rapamycin), resulting in cell cycle arrest and apoptosis. Incubation of normal rat cholangiocytes (NRC) cells, with TUDCA resulted in phosphorylation of CREB (Western blotting analysis) and activation of CREB transcription activity (luciferase reporter assay). Inhibition of calcium signals and inhibition of protein kinase C prevented the TUDCA-induced activation of CREB. CCI-779 decreased the viability of rat cholangiocytes in a dose-dependent manner (MTT [3-(4,5-dimethythiazol-2-yl)-2,5-diphenyl tetrazolium bromide] assay). TUDCA protected against CCI-779 cytotoxicity. A dominant negative form of CREB was stably transduced in NRC cells (NRC-M1). TUDCA protection was decreased in NRC-M1. While CCI-779 induced apoptosis in NRC cells as determined by caspase 3 activity, TUDCA attenuated CCI-779–induced apoptosis, an effect absent in NRC-M1. Finally, CCI-779 blocked proliferation of both NRC and NRC-M1 (thymidine incorporation) and this was unaffected by TUDCA. In conclusion, TUDCA activates CREB in cholangiocytes, reducing the apoptotic effect of CCI-779. These findings suggest a novel cytoprotective mechanism for this bile acid. (HEPATOLOGY 2005.)