Organic-anion-transporting polypeptide

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Organic-anion-transporting polypeptide (OATP) family

An organic-anion-transporting polypeptide (OATP) is a membrane transport protein or 'transporter' that mediates the transport of mainly organic anions across the cell membrane. Therefore, OATPs are present in the lipid bilayer of the cell membrane, acting as the cell's gatekeepers. OATPs belong to the Solute Carrier Family (SLC), more specifically the Solute Carrier Organic Anion (SLCO) gene subfamily [1]


Organic anion transporting polypeptides carry bile acids as well as bilirubin and numerous hormones such as thyroid and steroid hormones across the basolateral membrane (facing sinusoids) in hepatocytes, for excretion in bile.[2] As well as expression in the liver, OATPs are expressed in many other tissues on basolateral and apical membranes, transporting anions, as well as neutral and even cationic compounds. They also transport an extremely diverse range of drug compounds, ranging from anti-cancer, antibiotic, lipid lowering to anti-diabetic drugs, as well as toxins and poisons.

Various anti-cancer drugs like pazopanib, vandetanib, nilotinib, canertinib and erlotinib are known to be transported via OATPs (OATP-1B1 and OATP-1B3).[3] Some of these have also been reported as inhibitors of certain OATPs: pazopanib and nilotinib against OATP-1B1 and vandetanib against OATP-1B3.[4]

They also transport the dye bromosulphopthalein, availing it as a liver-testing substance.[2]


The table below shows the 11 known human OATPs. Note: Human OATPs are designated with capital letters, animal Oatps are designated with lower class letters. The 'SLCO' stands for their gene name; 'solute carrier organic anion.' Previous nomenclature using letters and numbers (e.g. OATP-A, OATP-8 is no longer correct. The most well characterised human OATPs are OATP1A2, OATP1B1, OATP1B3 and OATP2B1. Very little is known about the function and characteristics of OATP5A1 and OATP6A1.

Abbreviation Protein Name Location
SLCO1A2 Solute carrier organic anion transporter family member 1A2 Ubiquitous
SLCO1B1 Solute carrier organic anion transporter family member 1B1 Liver
SLCO1B3 Solute carrier organic anion transporter family member 1B3 Liver
SLCO1C1 Solute carrier organic anion transporter family member 1C1 Brain, testis
SLCO2A1 Solute carrier organic anion transporter family member 2A1 Ubiquitous
SLCO2B1 Solute carrier organic anion transporter family member 2B1 Ubiquitous
SLCO3A1 Solute carrier organic anion transporter family member 3A1 Testis, brain, heart, lung, spleen
SLCO4A1 Solute carrier organic anion transporter family member 4A1 Heart, placenta, lung, liver
SLCO4C1 Solute carrier organic anion transporter family member 4C1 Kidney
SLCO5A1 Solute carrier organic anion transporter family member 5A1 Breast, fetal brain, prostate
SLCO6A1 Solute carrier organic anion transporter family member 6A1 Testes, spleen, brain, placenta


The OATPs play a role in the transport of some classes of drugs across the cell membrane, particularly in the liver and kidney. In the liver, OATPs are expressed on the basolateral membrane of hepatocytes, transporting compounds into the hepatocyte for biotransformation. A number of drug-drug interactions have been associated with the OATPs, affecting the pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics of drugs. This is most commonly where one drug inhibits the transport of another drug into the hepatocyte, so that it is retained longer in the body (i.e. increased plasma half-life). The OATPs most associated with these interactions are OATP1B1, OATP1B3 and OATP2B1, which are all present on the hepatocyte basolateral (sinusoidal) membrane. OATP1B1 and OATP1B3 are known to play an important role in hepatic drug disposition. These OATPs contribute towards first step of hepatic accumulation and can influence the disposition of drug via hepatic route.[3] The most clinically relevant interactions have been associated with the lipid lowering drugs statins, which led to the removal of cerivastatin from the market in 2002. Single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) are also associated with the OATPs; particularly OATP1B1.

Many modulators of OATP function have been identified based on in vitro research in OATP-transfected cell lines.[5][6] Both OATP activation and inhibition has been observed and an in silico model for structure-based identification of OATP modulation was developed.[7]

Since tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs) are metabolized in the liver, interaction of TKIs with OATP1B1 and OATP1B3 can be considered as important molecular targets for transporter mediated drug-drug interactions.[3]

Along with the organic anion transporters, organic cation transporters and the ATP-binding cassette transporters, the OATPs play an important role in the absorption, distribution, metabolism and exretion (ADME) of many drugs.


OATPs are present in many animals, including fruit flies, zebrafish, dogs, cows, rats, mice, monkeys and horses. OATPs are not present in bacteria, indicating their evolution from the animal kingdom. However homologs do not correlate well with the human OATPs and therefore it is likely that isoforms arose by gene duplication. OATPs have however been found in insects,[8] suggesting that their evolution was early in the formation of the animal kingdom.


  1. ^ Hagenbuch B, Meier PJ (February 2004). "Organic anion transporting polypeptides of the OATP/ SLC21 family: phylogenetic classification as OATP/ SLCO superfamily, new nomenclature and molecular/functional properties" (PDF). Pflügers Archiv. 447 (5): 653–65. doi:10.1007/s00424-003-1168-y. PMID 14579113.
  2. ^ a b Pages 980-990 in:Walter F. Boron (2003). Medical Physiology: A Cellular And Molecular Approaoch. Elsevier/Saunders. p. 1300. ISBN 1-4160-2328-3.
  3. ^ a b c Khurana V, Minocha M, Pal D, Mitra AK (March 2014). "Role of OATP-1B1 and/or OATP-1B3 in hepatic disposition of tyrosine kinase inhibitors". Drug Metabolism and Drug Interactions. 29 (3): 179–90. doi:10.1515/dmdi-2013-0062. PMC 4407685. PMID 24643910.
  4. ^ Khurana V, Minocha M, Pal D, Mitra AK (May 2014). "Inhibition of OATP-1B1 and OATP-1B3 by tyrosine kinase inhibitors". Drug Metabolism and Drug Interactions. 29 (4): 249–59. doi:10.1515/dmdi-2014-0014. PMC 4407688. PMID 24807167.
  5. ^ Annaert P, Ye ZW, Stieger B, Augustijns P (March 2010). "Interaction of HIV protease inhibitors with OATP1B1, 1B3, and 2B1" (PDF). Xenobiotica; the Fate of Foreign Compounds in Biological Systems. 40 (3): 163–76. doi:10.3109/00498250903509375. PMID 20102298.
  6. ^ De Bruyn T, Fattah S, Stieger B, Augustijns P, Annaert P (November 2011). "Sodium fluorescein is a probe substrate for hepatic drug transport mediated by OATP1B1 and OATP1B3". Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences. 100 (11): 5018–30. doi:10.1002/jps.22694. PMID 21837650.
  7. ^ De Bruyn T, van Westen GJ, Ijzerman AP, Stieger B, de Witte P, Augustijns PF, Annaert PP (June 2013). "Structure-based identification of OATP1B1/3 inhibitors". Molecular Pharmacology. 83 (6): 1257–67. doi:10.1124/mol.112.084152. PMID 23571415.
  8. ^ Torrie LS, Radford JC, Southall TD, Kean L, Dinsmore AJ, Davies SA, Dow JA (September 2004). "Resolution of the insect ouabain paradox". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 101 (37): 13689–93. doi:10.1073/pnas.0403087101. PMC 518814. PMID 15347816.