Changes in the expression of hepatocyte membrane transporters in advanced fibrosis decrease the hepatic transport function of organic anions. The aim of our study was to assess if these changes can be evaluated with pharmacokinetic analysis of the hepatobiliary transport of the MR contrast agent gadoxetate.
Dynamic gadoxetate-enhanced MRI was performed in 17 rats with advanced fibrosis and 8 normal rats. After deconvolution, hepatocyte three-compartmental analysis was performed to calculate the hepatocyte influx, biliary efflux and sinusoidal backflux rates. The expression of Oatp1a1, Mrp2 and Mrp3 organic anion membrane transporters was assessed with reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction.
In the rats with advanced fibrosis, the influx and efflux rates of gadoxetate decreased and the backflux rate increased significantly (p = 0.003, 0.041 and 0.010, respectively). Significant correlations were found between influx and Oatp1a1 expression (r = 0.78, p < 0.001), biliary efflux and Mrp2 (r = 0.50, p = 0.016) and sinusoidal backflux and Mrp3 (r = 0.61, p = 0.002).
These results show that changes in the bidirectional organic anion hepatocyte transport function in rats with advanced liver fibrosis can be assessed with compartmental analysis of gadoxetate-enhanced MRI.