Reprogramming of pro-inflammatory human macrophages to an anti-inflammatory phenotype by bile acids

Sci Rep. 2018 Jan 10;8(1):255. doi: 10.1038/s41598-017-18305-x.


Cholestasis is caused by autoimmune reactions, drug-induced hepatotoxicity, viral infections of the liver and the obstruction of bile ducts by tumours or gallstones. Cholestatic conditions are associated with impaired innate and adaptive immunity, including alterations of the cellular functions of monocytes, macrophages, NK cells and T-cells. Bile acids act as signalling molecules, affecting lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-induced cytokine expression in primary human macrophages. The present manuscript investigates the impact of bile acids, such as taurolithocholic acid (TLC), on the transcriptome of human macrophages in the presence or absence of LPS. While TLC itself has almost no effect on gene expression under control conditions, this compound modulates the expression of 202 out of 865 transcripts in the presence of LPS. Interestingly, pathway analysis revealed that TLC specifically supressed the expression of genes involved in mediating pro-inflammatory effects, phagocytosis, interactions with pathogens and autophagy as well as the recruitment of immune cells, such as NK cells, neutrophils and T cells. These data indicate a broad influence of bile acids on inflammatory responses and immune functions in macrophages. These findings may contribute to the clinical observation that patients with cholestasis present a lack of response to bacterial or viral infections.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Bile Acids and Salts / metabolism*
  • Bile Acids and Salts / pharmacology
  • Biomarkers
  • Cellular Reprogramming* / drug effects
  • Cellular Reprogramming* / genetics
  • Chemotaxis
  • Cytokines / genetics
  • Cytokines / metabolism
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Humans
  • Inflammation Mediators / metabolism
  • Killer Cells, Natural / immunology
  • Killer Cells, Natural / metabolism
  • Lipopolysaccharides / immunology
  • Macrophage Activation / genetics
  • Macrophage Activation / immunology
  • Macrophages / drug effects
  • Macrophages / immunology
  • Macrophages / metabolism*
  • Phenotype*
  • Transcriptome


  • Bile Acids and Salts
  • Biomarkers
  • Cytokines
  • Inflammation Mediators
  • Lipopolysaccharides