Author(s): Robinson SH, Yannoni C, Nagasawa S
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Abstract The effect of phenobarbital on bilirubin excretion was studied in rats with different capacities for bilirubin conjugation. Drug treatment induced substantial increases in bilirubin UDP-glucuronyl transferase activity in the liver of both normal and heterozygous Gunn rats, but not homozygous Gunn rats in which enzyme activity is completely absent. However, enhancement of bilirubin excretion in vivo was observed only in heterozygous Gunn rats. In these animals the maximum capacity to excrete bilirubin into bile (T(max)), like the activity of the conjugating enzyme, was half normal; phenobarbital caused an increase in T(max) to levels characteristic of normal animals, with a twofold rise in the excretion of conjugated pigment. This appeared to be largely unrelated to enhancement of bile flow, and there was no stimulation of alternate pathways of bilirubin excretion. Conjugated bilirubin was consistently recovered from the plasma and urine of both untreated normal and heterozygous Gunn rats infused with unconjugated pigment. The quantities thus recovered comprised a similar fraction of the total pigment conjugated in both types of animal. Moreover, there were linear correlations between T(max) and both the rate of bile flow and the activity of the conjugating enzyme over the range of values represented by control rats of both types. These findings suggest that the process by which conjugated bilirubin is secreted into the bile is closely related to conjugation and limits the final excretory rate at different levels of pigment excretion. The phenobarbital effect uniquely observed in heterozygous Gunn rats appears to be mediated primarily by enhancement of the limited capacity for bilirubin conjugation with an associated rise in functional secretory capacity.
This article was published in J Clin Invest
and referenced in Journal of Clinical & Experimental Pathology