Immunohistochemical studies suggest that canalicular secretion via multidrug resistance protein 2 (Mrp2), a conjugate export pump encoded by the Mrp2 gene, is regulated by rapid transporter retrieval from/insertion into the canalicular membrane. The present study was undertaken in order to investigate this suggestion by means of immunogold electron microscopy. Therefore the effects of lipopolysaccharide (LPS) and osmolarity on Mrp2 localization were studied following immunogold labelling in the perfused rat liver by quantitative electron microscopy and morphometric analyses, and by confocal laser scanning microscopy. Mrp2 activity was assessed in the isolated perfused rat liver by measuring the excretion of dinitrophenyl-S-glutathione as a substrate of Mrp2. Both LPS and hyperosmolarity resulted in a statistically significant decrease in immunogold-labelled Mrp2 in the canalicular membrane and canalicular villi, and an increase in labelling in the pericanalicular cytoplasm. Canalicular morphometric parameters were unchanged under these conditions compared with controls. Under hyperosmolar perfusion Mrp2, but not the canalicular protein dipeptidylpeptidase IV, was found inside the cells, as shown by double immunofluorescence and confocal laser scanning microscopy. The findings suggest a selective retrieval of Mrp2 from the canalicular membrane under the influence of hyperosmolarity and LPS, whereas canalicular morphology remains unchanged.

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