Preclinical/Animal Transporters

Bsep - rat

Bsep (bile salt export pump), rat

Aliases: ABC16, Lith1, PFIC2, PGY4, SPGP
Gene name: TP-binding cassette, sub-family B (MDR/TAP), member 11 (ABCB11)

Bile salt export pump (BSEP/Bsep) is one of the major transporters of interest in drug development due to its relevance to hepatotoxicity. Rodents, dogs and monkeys are species often used in metabolic, pharmacokinetic and toxicity studies. In order to interpret data generated in these species, it is necessary to understand the functional characteristics of the animal orthologs of human BSEP. 
BSEP/Bsep is highly conserved in vertebrates. Rat, mouse and dog orthologs of human BSEP are also close relatives, sharing 82, 80, and 89.4% similarity, respectively, with the human protein [1-3]. 
Preclinical animals are often less sensitive than humans to bile acid-mediated drug-induced liver injury. Only about 50% of incidences of clinical hepatotoxicity can be successfully predicted using rodent models; thus, results obtained in these models are not readily translatable to the human clinical setting. Potential reasons include species differences in bile acid composition, in the metabolism and disposition of drugs, as well as in the substrate and/or inhibitor specificities of bile salt transporters. It was shown previously that although the affinities for the monovalent bile acid conjugates are very similar across species, the preferred substrate of human BSEP is taurocholate, whereas it is taurochenodeoxycholate for the rodent ortholog [4]. Differences among species in Bsep activity and expression levels have also been demonstrated in liver tissue as well as fresh and cryopreserved hepatocytes [5-7]. 
An important difference between these species is their sensitivity to impairment of Bsep transport function [8]. Loss-of-function mutations of BSEP in humans lead to progressive intrahepatic cholestasis that is fatal unless liver transplantation is performed. In contrast, Bsep-null mice develop only mild cholestasis, probably because overexpression of both P-glycoprotein genes compensates for lost Bsep function [9]. Even if cholestasis is induced by bile duct ligation or chemical treatment, Bsep-null mice successfully evade hepatic injury by upregulating bile acid detoxification / hydroxylation pathways [10]. A recent study on Bsep knockdown rats gave insight into the diverse effects of different Bsep inhibitors on bile salt homeostasis [11]. 
In vitro assays using hepatocytes, sandwich cultured hepatocytes, or membrane vesicles expressing the Bsep protein showed marked inter-species differences in the inhibitory potencies of selected drugs. The conclusion of these studies was that drugs are less able to inhibit mouse Bsep than the corresponding orthologs from human or other species [12, 13]. In some cases, inter-species differences in toxicity may be explained by the species-dependent effects of drugs on transporter and/or metabolic enzyme expression [14].


1.    Green, R.M., F. Hoda, and K.L. Ward, Molecular cloning and characterization of the murine bile salt export pump. Gene, 2000. 241(1): p. 117-23.
2.    Lecureur, V., et al., Expression and regulation of hepatic drug and bile acid transporters. Toxicology, 2000. 153(1-3): p. 203-19.
3.    Yabuuchi, H., et al., Cloning of the dog bile salt export pump (BSEP; ABCB11) and functional comparison with the human and rat proteins. Biopharm Drug Dispos, 2008. 29(8): p. 441-8.
4.    Byrne, J.A., et al., The human bile salt export pump: characterization of substrate specificity and identification of inhibitors. Gastroenterology, 2002. 123(5): p. 1649-58.
5.    Li, N., et al., Quantitative expression profile of hepatobiliary transporters in sandwich cultured rat and human hepatocytes. Mol Pharm, 2009. 6(4): p. 1180-9.
6.    Li, N., et al., LC-MS/MS mediated absolute quantification and comparison of bile salt export pump and breast cancer resistance protein in livers and hepatocytes across species. Anal Chem, 2009. 81(6): p. 2251-9.
7.    Wang, L., et al., Interspecies variability in expression of hepatobiliary transporters across human, dog, monkey, and rat as determined by quantitative proteomics. Drug Metab Dispos, 2015. 43(3): p. 367-74.
8.    Wang, R., et al., Targeted inactivation of sister of P-glycoprotein gene (spgp) in mice results in nonprogressive but persistent intrahepatic cholestasis. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, 2001. 98(4): p. 2011-6.
9.    Wang, R., et al., Compensatory role of P-glycoproteins in knockout mice lacking the bile salt export pump. Hepatology, 2009. 50(3): p. 948-56.
10.    Fuchs, C.D., et al., Metabolic preconditioning protects BSEP/ABCB11(-/-) mice against cholestatic liver injury. J Hepatol, 2017. 66(1): p. 95-101.
11.    Li, Y., et al., Use of a Bile Salt Export Pump Knockdown Rat Susceptibility Model to Interrogate Mechanism of Drug-Induced Liver Toxicity. Toxicol Sci, 2019. 170(1): p. 180-198.
12.    Zhang, J., et al., Inhibition of bile salt transport by drugs associated with liver injury in primary hepatocytes from human, monkey, dog, rat, and mouse. Chem Biol Interact, 2016. 255: p. 45-54.
13.    Kis, E., et al., Effect of membrane cholesterol on BSEP/Bsep activity: species specificity studies for substrates and inhibitors. Drug Metab Dispos, 2009. 37(9): p. 1878-86.
14.    Wang, Y., et al., Hepatotoxicity induced by psoralen and isopsoralen from Fructus Psoraleae: Wistar rats are more vulnerable than ICR mice. Food Chem Toxicol, 2019. 125: p. 133-140.

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