Hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection affects 240 million people worldwide. A liver-specific bile acid transporter named the sodium taurocholate cotransporting polypeptide (NTCP) has been identified as the cellular receptor for HBV and its satellite, the hepatitis D virus (HDV). NTCP likely acts as a major determinant for the liver tropism and species specificity of HBV and HDV at the entry level. NTCP-mediated HBV entry interferes with bile acid transport in cell cultures and has been linked with alterations in bile acid and cholesterol metabolism in vivo. The human liver carcinoma cell line HepG2, complemented with NTCP, now provides a valuable platform for studying the basic biology of the viruses and developing treatments for HBV infection. This review summarizes critical findings regarding NTCP's role as a viral receptor for HBV and HDV and discusses important questions that remain unanswered.

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