Survival of the Fittest: How Bacterial Pathogens Utilize Bile To Enhance Infection

Clin Microbiol Rev. 2016 Oct;29(4):819-36. doi: 10.1128/CMR.00031-16.


Bacterial pathogens have coevolved with humans in order to efficiently infect, replicate within, and be transmitted to new hosts to ensure survival and a continual infection cycle. For enteric pathogens, the ability to adapt to numerous host factors under the harsh conditions of the gastrointestinal tract is critical for establishing infection. One such host factor readily encountered by enteric bacteria is bile, an innately antimicrobial detergent-like compound essential for digestion and nutrient absorption. Not only have enteric pathogens evolved to resist the bactericidal conditions of bile, but these bacteria also utilize bile as a signal to enhance virulence regulation for efficient infection. This review provides a comprehensive and up-to-date analysis of bile-related research with enteric pathogens. From common responses to the unique expression of specific virulence factors, each pathogen has overcome significant challenges to establish infection in the gastrointestinal tract. Utilization of bile as a signal to modulate virulence factor expression has led to important insights for our understanding of virulence mechanisms for many pathogens. Further research on enteric pathogens exposed to this in vivo signal will benefit therapeutic and vaccine development and ultimately enhance our success at combating such elite pathogens.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bile / metabolism*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Enterobacteriaceae / drug effects
  • Enterobacteriaceae / metabolism
  • Enterobacteriaceae / physiology*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Bacterial / drug effects
  • Host-Pathogen Interactions
  • Humans
  • Microbial Viability
  • Virulence
  • Virulence Factors / biosynthesis


  • Virulence Factors