Bile formation is an osmotic process driven by the vectorial transport of actively transferred biliary components across the basolateral (sinusoidal) and apical (canalicular) hepatocyte membranes, the latter being the rate-limiting step of the overall blood-to-bile transfer. The ATP-binding cassette (ABC) superfamily of membrane transporters comprises novel ATP-dependent carriers that mediate canalicular transfer of several endogenous and exogenous substrates, and therefore play a key role in bile formation. Gene expression, as well as the balance between vesicular targeting and internalization of these transporters to / from the canalicular membrane are highly regulated processes. This balance is affected in several models of hepatocellular cholestasis, and these alterations may either initiate or perpetuate the cholestatic manifestations. This review describes the regulation of the normal activity of hepatocellular ABC transporters, focusing on the involvement of transcription factors and signaling pathways in the regulation of carrier synthesis, dynamic localization and phosphorylation status. Its alteration in different experimental models of cholestasis, such as those induced by estrogens, lipopolysaccharide (endotoxin), monohydroxylated bile salts and oxidative stress, is also reviewed. Finally, several experimental therapeutic approaches based upon the administration of compounds known / thought to induce carrier synthesis (e.g., protein synthesis inducers), to counteract etiological factors responsible for the cholestatic disease (e.g., corticoids in lipopolysaccharide-induced cholestasis) or to stimulate exocytic insertion of canalicular transporters (e.g., cAMP, silymarin or tauroursodeoxycholate) are described with respect to their ability to prevent cholestatic alterations; the role of signaling molecules as putative downstream mediators of their effects are also discussed.