Pleiotropic roles of bile acids in metabolism

Cell Metab. 2013 May 7;17(5):657-69. doi: 10.1016/j.cmet.2013.03.013. Epub 2013 Apr 18.


Enzymatic oxidation of cholesterol generates numerous distinct bile acids that function both as detergents that facilitate digestion and absorption of dietary lipids, and as hormones that activate four distinct receptors. Activation of these receptors alters gene expression in multiple tissues, leading to changes not only in bile acid metabolism but also in glucose homeostasis, lipid and lipoprotein metabolism, energy expenditure, intestinal motility and bacterial growth, inflammation, liver regeneration, and hepatocarcinogenesis. This review covers the roles of specific bile acids, synthetic agonists, and their cognate receptors in controlling these diverse functions, as well as their current use in treating human diseases.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bile Acids and Salts / genetics
  • Bile Acids and Salts / metabolism*
  • Gene Expression
  • Humans
  • Lipid Metabolism / genetics
  • Lipid Metabolism / physiology*
  • Receptors, Cell Surface / genetics
  • Receptors, Cell Surface / metabolism


  • Bile Acids and Salts
  • Receptors, Cell Surface