Functional heterogeneity of cholangiocytes.
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The objective of this article is to summarize the findings related to the notion that cholangiocytes, within small and large intrahepatic ducts, are heterogeneous regarding (1) morphology; (2) secretion in response to hormones and peptides and to bile acids; and (3) proliferation in response to injury or toxins, including bile duct ligation (BDL), acute carbon tetrachloride (CCl 4 ) administration, chronic feeding of bile salts (i.e., taurocholate [TC] or taurolithocholate [TLC]) or alpha-naphthylisothiocyanate (ANIT). After an overview of the morphology of the biliary epithelium, we provide a summary of cholangiocyte function, the in vivo models, and the in vitro experimental tools (i.e., small and large cholangiocytes or small and large intrahepatic bile duct units [IBDU]), which allowed us to demonstrate cholangiocyte heterogeneity. After a discussion on the receptors, transporters, and channels that are heterogeneously expressed by cholangiocytes, we discuss the different-sized ducts that differentially respond to injury and toxins. Finally, we review the human diseases that selectively target specific-sized ducts.