The apical membrane of the hepatocyte fulfils a unique function in the formation of primary bile. For all important biliary constituents a primary active transporter is present that extrudes or translocates its substrate toward the canalicular lumen. Most of these transporters are ATP-binding cassette (ABC) transporters. Two types of transporters can be recognized: those having endogenous metabolites as substrates (which could be referred to as “physiologic” transporters) and those involved in the elimination of drugs, toxins, and waste products. It should be emphasized that this distinction cannot be strictly made as some endogenous metabolites can be regarded as toxins as well. The importance of the canalicular transporters has been recognized by the pathologic consequence of their genetic defects. For each of the physiologic transporter genes an inherited disease has now been identified and most of these diseases have a quite serious clinical phenotype. Strikingly, complete defects in drug transporter function have not been recognized (yet) or only cause a mild phenotype. In this review we only briefly discuss the inherited defects in transporter function, and we focus on the pathophysiologic concepts that these diseases have generated.