Biliary epithelial cells are involved in bile formation and are of importance in different cholestatic conditions (eg, vanishing bile duct syndrome). Recent studies have focused on the heterogeneity of the biliary system with respect to responsiveness to hormone stimulation and the expression of different membrane proteins. A novel polarized biliary epithelial cell line has been established that should help to clarify transepithelial transport function of the biliary system. Finally, there has been progress in understanding the regulation of biliary epithelial cell function by different agonists (eg, extracellular nucleotides and muscarinic receptor agonists) and intracellular messengers (eg, Ca2+). These observations have led to the hypothesis of hepatobiliary coupling, which stipulates that canalicular secreted agonists influence biliary epithelial cell function.
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