Competition in liver transport between chenodeoxycholic acid and ursodeoxycholic acid as a mechanism for ursodeoxycholic acid and its amidates' protection of liver damage induced by chenodeoxycholic acid

Dig Liver Dis. 2000 May;32(4):318-28. doi: 10.1016/s1590-8658(00)80025-0.


Background: Ursodeoxycholic acid has been widely used as a therapeutic agent in cholesterol gallstones and liver disease patients, but its mechanism of action is still under investigation.

Aims: The protective effect of ursodeoxycholic acid, both free, taurine and glycine conjugated, against hepatotoxic bile acids such as chenodeoxycholic acid and its taurine amidate was studied in bile fistula rats and compared with the cholic and taurocholic acid effect.

Methods: Tauroursodeoxycholic acid, glycine ursodeoxycholic acid, ursodeoxycholic acid, taurocholic acid and cholic acid were infused iv over 1 hour (8 micromol/min/kg) together with an equimolar dose of either taurochenodeoxycholic acid or chenodeoxycholc acid. Bile flow, total and individual bile acid and biliary lactate dehydrogenase and alkaline phosphatase enzymes were measured.

Results: Taurochenodeoxycholic acid and chenodeoxycholc acid caused cholestasis and liver damage associated with a decreased bile flow, total and individual bile acids secretion accompanied by a biliary leakage of lactate dehydrogenase and alkaline phosphatase enzymes. Tauroursodeoxycholic acid, glycine ursodeoxycholic acid, ursodeoxycholic acid and taurocholic acid, on the contrary, were choleretic, inducing an opposite effect on biliary parameters. Simultaneous infusion of taurochenodeoxycholic acid and the protective bile acid resulted in a functional and morphological improvement of the above parameters in the following order: glycine ursodeoxycholic acid > tauroursodeoxycholic acid > ursodeoxycholic acid followed by taurocholic acid; cholic acid was ineffective.

Conclusions: The results show the protective effect of glycine ursodeoxycholic acid, ursodeoxycholic acid and tauroursodeoxycholic acid. This may be due to a facilitated transport of the toxic bile acid into bile; conjugation with taurine is less effective than glycine. Finally, the better protective effect of ursodeoxycholic acid and its amidates with respect to cholic acid and its taurine conjugated form seems to be related to their different lipophilicity and micellar forming capacity.

MeSH terms

  • Alkaline Phosphatase / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Bile Acids and Salts / metabolism
  • Carrier Proteins / physiology
  • Chenodeoxycholic Acid / pharmacokinetics*
  • Chenodeoxycholic Acid / pharmacology
  • Humans
  • Hydroxysteroid Dehydrogenases*
  • L-Lactate Dehydrogenase / metabolism
  • Liver / drug effects*
  • Liver / physiology
  • Liver Diseases / drug therapy
  • Male
  • Membrane Glycoproteins*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Taurochenodeoxycholic Acid / pharmacokinetics*
  • Taurochenodeoxycholic Acid / pharmacology
  • Ursodeoxycholic Acid / analogs & derivatives
  • Ursodeoxycholic Acid / pharmacokinetics*
  • Ursodeoxycholic Acid / pharmacology


  • Bile Acids and Salts
  • Carrier Proteins
  • Membrane Glycoproteins
  • bile acid binding proteins
  • Chenodeoxycholic Acid
  • Taurochenodeoxycholic Acid
  • ursodoxicoltaurine
  • glycoursodeoxycholic acid
  • Ursodeoxycholic Acid
  • Hydroxysteroid Dehydrogenases
  • L-Lactate Dehydrogenase
  • AKR1C2 protein, human
  • Alkaline Phosphatase