Disease-Associated Changes in Bile Acid Profiles and Links to Altered Gut Microbiota

Dig Dis. 2017;35(3):169-177. doi: 10.1159/000450907. Epub 2017 Mar 1.


The gastrointestinal microbiota plays a central role in the host metabolism of bile acids through deconjugation and dehydroxylation reactions, which generate unconjugated free bile acids and secondary bile acids respectively. These microbially generated bile acids are particularly potent signalling molecules that interact with host bile acid receptors (including the farnesoid X receptor, vitamin D receptor and TGR5 receptor) to trigger cellular responses that play essential roles in host lipid metabolism, electrolyte transport and immune regulation. Perturbations of microbial populations in the gut can therefore profoundly alter bile acid profiles in the host to impact upon the digestive and signalling properties of bile acids in the human superorganism. A number of recent studies have clearly demonstrated the occurrence of microbial disturbances allied to alterations in host bile acid profiles that occur across a range of disease states. Intestinal diseases including irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), short bowel syndrome and Clostridium difficile infection all exhibit concurrent alterations in the composition of the gut microbiota and changes to host bile acid profiles. Similarly, extraintestinal diseases and syndromes such as asthma and obesity may be linked to aberrant bile acid profiles in the host. Here, we focus upon recent studies that highlight the links between alterations to gut microbial communities and altered bile acid profiles across a range of diseases from asthma to IBD.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bacteria / metabolism
  • Bile Acids and Salts / chemistry
  • Bile Acids and Salts / metabolism*
  • Disease*
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome*
  • Humans
  • Receptors, Cytoplasmic and Nuclear


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