Consequences of bile salt biotransformations by intestinal bacteria

Gut Microbes. 2016;7(1):22-39. doi: 10.1080/19490976.2015.1127483.


Emerging evidence strongly suggest that the human "microbiome" plays an important role in both health and disease. Bile acids function both as detergents molecules promoting nutrient absorption in the intestines and as hormones regulating nutrient metabolism. Bile acids regulate metabolism via activation of specific nuclear receptors (NR) and G-protein coupled receptors (GPCRs). The circulating bile acid pool composition consists of primary bile acids produced from cholesterol in the liver, and secondary bile acids formed by specific gut bacteria. The various biotransformation of bile acids carried out by gut bacteria appear to regulate the structure of the gut microbiome and host physiology. Increased levels of secondary bile acids are associated with specific diseases of the GI system. Elucidating methods to control the gut microbiome and bile acid pool composition in humans may lead to a reduction in some of the major diseases of the liver, gall bladder and colon.

Keywords: bile acid 7α-dehydroxylation; bile acid oxidoreductases; bile salt hydrolase; gut microbiota; secondary bile acids.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acids / metabolism
  • Bacteria / metabolism*
  • Bile Acids and Salts / metabolism*
  • Diet
  • Energy Metabolism*
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Receptors, Cytoplasmic and Nuclear / metabolism*
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled / metabolism*


  • Amino Acids
  • Bile Acids and Salts
  • Receptors, Cytoplasmic and Nuclear
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled