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Keywords:

  • bile acids;
  • bilirubin;
  • cholestasis;
  • pregnancy

Abstract

Potentially toxic endogenous compounds, such as bile acids (BAs) and biliary pigments, as well as many xenobiotics, such as drugs and food components, are biotransformed and eliminated by the hepatobiliary system with the collaboration of the kidney. However, the situation is very different during pregnancy because the fetal liver produces biliary compounds despite the fact that this organ, owing to its immaturity, is not able to eliminate them into bile. Moreover, the excretory ability of the fetal kidneys is also very limited. Thus, during the intra-uterine life, the major route to eliminate fetal BAs and biliary pigments is their transfer to the mother across the placenta. The maternal liver and, to a lesser extent, the maternal kidney, are then in charge of their biotransformation and elimination into faeces and urine respectively. This review describes current knowledge of the machinery responsible for the detoxification and excretion of cholephilic compounds through the pathway formed by the fetal liver–placenta–maternal liver trio.