The substrate specificity for the transporter that mediates the hepatic uptake of organic anions in freshly isolated hepatocytes of the elasmobranch little skate (Raja erinacea) was determined for bile salts and bile alcohols. The Na(+)-independent transport system exhibits a substrate specificity, which is different from the specificity of Na(+)-dependent bile salt transport in mammals. Unconjugated and conjugated di- and tri-hydroxylated bile salts inhibit uptake of cholyltaurine and cholate competitively. Inhibition is significantly greater with unconjugated as opposed to glycine- or taurine-conjugated bile salts. However, the number of hydroxyl groups in the steroid moiety of the bile salts has only minor influences on the inhibition by the unconjugated bile salts. Since the transport system seems to represent an archaic organic-anion transport system, other anions, such as dicarboxylates, amino acids and sulphate, were also tested, but had no inhibitory effect on bile salt uptake. To clarify whether bile alcohols, the physiological solutes in skate bile, share this transport system, cholyltaurine transport was studied after addition of 5 beta-cholestane-3 beta,5 alpha,6 beta-triol, 5 alpha-cholestan-3 beta-ol and 5 beta-cholestane-3 alpha, 7 alpha, 12 alpha-triol. These bile alcohols inhibit cholyltaurine uptake non-competitively. In contrast, uptake of 5 beta-cholestane-3 alpha,7 alpha,12 alpha-triol, which is Na(+)-independent, is not inhibited by cholyltaurine. The findings further characterize a Na(+)-independent organic-anion transport system in skate liver cells, which is not shared by bile alcohols and has preference for unconjugated lipophilic bile salts.

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