To examine the hypothesis that glutathione S-transferases (GST) play an important role in the hepatocellular transport of hydrophobic organic anions, the kinetics of the spontaneous transfer of unconjugated bilirubin between membrane vesicles and rat liver glutathione S-transferase B (ligandin) was studied, using stopped-flow fluorometry. Bilirubin transfer from glutathione S-transferase B to phosphatidylcholine vesicles was best described by a single exponential function, with a rate constant of 8.0 +/- 0.7 s-1 (+/- SD) at 25 degrees C. The variations in transfer rate with respect to acceptor phospholipid concentration provide strong evidence for aqueous diffusion of free bilirubin. This finding was verified using rhodamine-labeled microsomal membranes as acceptors. Bilirubin transfer from phospholipid vesicles to GST also exhibited diffusional kinetics. Thermodynamic parameters for bilirubin dissociation from GST were similar to those for human serum albumin. The rate of bilirubin transfer from rat liver basolateral plasma membranes to acceptor vesicles in the presence of glutathione S-transferase B declined asymptotically with increasing GST concentration. These data suggest that glutathione S-transferase B does not function as an intracellular bilirubin transporter, although expression of this protein may serve to regulate the delivery of bilirubin, and other nonsubstrate ligands, to sites of metabolism within the cell.
S D Zucker, W Goessling, B J Ransil, J L Gollan