PURPOSE OF REVIEW: Generation of bile is an important function of the liver. Its impairment can be caused by inherited mutations or by acquired factors and leads to cholestasis. Bile salts are an important constituent of bile and are secreted by the bile salt export pump (BSEP) from hepatocytes. RECENT FINDINGS: Significant progress was made in the understanding of mechanisms and consequences of malfunctioning BSEP. This information was gained from extensive characterization of patients with inherited BSEP deficiency and the subsequent characterization of the identified mutations in heterologous expression systems. Furthermore and importantly, clinical evidence shows that patients with severe BSEP deficiency are at risk to develop hepatocellular carcinoma. Bile salts are now recognized to be important in the modulation of whole body energy homeostasis. Because BSEP is the rate-limiting step in hepatocellular bile salt transport, it controls the spill over of bile salts into the systemic circulation. Therefore, an indirect role of BSEP in energy homeostasis becomes more and more likely. SUMMARY: In summary, knowledge on the physiologic and pathophysiologic role of BSEP is rapidly progressing. It can be anticipated that the next major step in better understanding BSEP should come from information on structure-function relationship. However, given the difficulty in structure determination of mammalian transporters, this will require major efforts.