A Physiology-Based Model of Bile Acid Distribution and Metabolism Under Healthy and Pathologic Conditions in Human Beings

Cell Mol Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2020;10(1):149-170. doi: 10.1016/j.jcmgh.2020.02.005. Epub 2020 Feb 26.


Background & aims: Disturbances of the enterohepatic circulation of bile acids (BAs) are seen in a number of clinically important conditions, including metabolic disorders, hepatic impairment, diarrhea, and gallstone disease. To facilitate the exploration of underlying pathogenic mechanisms, we developed a mathematical model built on quantitative physiological observations across different organs.

Methods: The model consists of a set of kinetic equations describing the syntheses of cholic, chenodeoxycholic, and deoxycholic acids, as well as time-related changes of their respective free and conjugated forms in the systemic circulation, the hepatoportal region, and the gastrointestinal tract. The core structure of the model was adapted from previous modeling research and updated based on recent mechanistic insights, including farnesoid X receptor-mediated autoregulation of BA synthesis and selective transport mechanisms. The model was calibrated against existing data on BA distribution and feedback regulation.

Results: According to model-based predictions, changes in intestinal motility, BA absorption, and biotransformation rates affected BA composition and distribution differently, as follows: (1) inhibition of transintestinal BA flux (eg, in patients with BA malabsorption) or acceleration of intestinal motility, followed by farnesoid X receptor down-regulation, was associated with colonic BA accumulation; (2) in contrast, modulation of the colonic absorption process was predicted to not affect the BA pool significantly; and (3) activation of ileal deconjugation (eg, in patents with small intestinal bacterial overgrowth) was associated with an increase in the BA pool, owing to higher ileal permeability of unconjugated BA species.

Conclusions: This model will be useful in further studying how BA enterohepatic circulation modulation may be exploited for therapeutic benefits.

Keywords: Bile Acids; Cholesterol 7α-Hydroxylase; Farnesoid X Receptor; Fibroblast Growth Factor-19; Physiology-Based Modeling.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Bile Acids and Salts / metabolism*
  • Diarrhea / metabolism
  • Diarrhea / pathology
  • Enterohepatic Circulation / physiology
  • Gallbladder / metabolism
  • Gallbladder / pathology
  • Gallstones / metabolism
  • Gallstones / pathology
  • Gastrointestinal Motility / physiology
  • Humans
  • Ileum / metabolism
  • Intestinal Absorption / physiology
  • Intestinal Mucosa / metabolism
  • Liver / metabolism*
  • Liver / pathology
  • Liver Diseases / metabolism
  • Liver Diseases / pathology
  • Metabolic Diseases / metabolism
  • Metabolic Diseases / pathology
  • Models, Biological*
  • Permeability


  • Bile Acids and Salts