The liver recovers bile acids from the portal circulation primarily via an active process that is dependent on sodium ions. Hepatocytes lose the ability to transport bile acids in culture, and, in liver-derived permanent cell lines, this ability is severely reduced or absent. To study the importance of bile acids in regulating liver-specific functions (e.g., cellular bile acid and cholesterol metabolism), we have re-established active bile acid transport in cultured cells. The complementary DNA (cDNA) encoding the rat sodium/taurocholate cotransporting polypeptide (ntcp) was placed under the control of a cytomegalovirus promoter and transfected into the rat hepatoma cell line, McArdle RH-7777. Transfected cells were screened for the ability to take up [3H]-taurocholate. Clones that displayed the ability to take up taurocholate were expanded (designated McNtcp) and further characterized. The apparent Michaelis constant (Km) for taurocholate uptake was similar among the different clones. The observed maximum velocity (Vmax), however, differed and was positively correlated with the abundance of recombinant ntcp messenger RNA (mRNA). The highest level of taurocholate uptake activity observed in McNtcp cells was comparable with that of freshly isolated hepatocytes. Efflux of accumulated taurocholate from McNtcp cells proceeded in a manner similar to primary hepatocytes, indicating that McArdle RH-7777 cells have retained the ability to secrete bile acids. Moreover, taurocholate uptake in McNtcp cells was inhibited by other bile acid species. Based on the observed kinetic parameters, the reconstituted McArdle RH-7777 cells mimic the ability of primary hepatocytes to transport bile acids.
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