Bile Acid Modifications at the Microbe-Host Interface: Potential for Nutraceutical and Pharmaceutical Interventions in Host Health

Annu Rev Food Sci Technol. 2016;7:313-33. doi: 10.1146/annurev-food-041715-033159. Epub 2016 Jan 11.


Bile acids have emerged as important signaling molecules in the host, as they interact either locally or systemically with specific cellular receptors, in particular the farnesoid X receptor (FXR) and TGR5. These signaling functions influence systemic lipid and cholesterol metabolism, energy metabolism, immune homeostasis, and intestinal electrolyte balance. Through defined enzymatic activities, the gut microbiota can significantly modify the signaling properties of bile acids and therefore can have an impact upon host health. Alterations to the gut microbiota that influence bile acid metabolism are associated with metabolic disease, obesity, diarrhea, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), Clostridium difficile infection, colorectal cancer, and hepatocellular carcinoma. Here, we examine the regulation of this gut-microbiota-liver axis in the context of bile acid metabolism and indicate how this pathway represents an important target for the development of new nutraceutical (diet and/or probiotics) and targeted pharmaceutical interventions.

Keywords: bile acid; cholesterol; microbiota; obesity; probiotic.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aging
  • Bile Acids and Salts / metabolism
  • Bile Acids and Salts / physiology*
  • Diet
  • Dietary Supplements*
  • Disease
  • Energy Metabolism
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome / physiology*
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Liver / metabolism
  • Probiotics
  • Receptors, Cytoplasmic and Nuclear / physiology
  • Signal Transduction
  • Technology, Pharmaceutical*
  • Weight Gain


  • Bile Acids and Salts
  • Receptors, Cytoplasmic and Nuclear
  • farnesoid X-activated receptor