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. 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). Some of these have also been reported as inhibitors of certain OATPs: pazopanib and nilotinib against OATP-1B1 and vandetanib against OATP-1B3.
They also transport the dye bromosulphopthalein, availing it as a liver-testing substance.
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.
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. 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.