Metabolic Network Analysis Reveals Altered Bile Acid Synthesis and Metabolism in Alzheimer's Disease

Cell Rep Med. 2020 Nov 17;1(8):100138. doi: 10.1016/j.xcrm.2020.100138.


Increasing evidence suggests Alzheimer's disease (AD) pathophysiology is influenced by primary and secondary bile acids, the end product of cholesterol metabolism. We analyze 2,114 post-mortem brain transcriptomes and identify genes in the alternative bile acid synthesis pathway to be expressed in the brain. A targeted metabolomic analysis of primary and secondary bile acids measured from post-mortem brain samples of 111 individuals supports these results. Our metabolic network analysis suggests that taurine transport, bile acid synthesis, and cholesterol metabolism differ in AD and cognitively normal individuals. We also identify putative transcription factors regulating metabolic genes and influencing altered metabolism in AD. Intriguingly, some bile acids measured in brain tissue cannot be explained by the presence of enzymes responsible for their synthesis, suggesting that they may originate from the gut microbiome and are transported to the brain. These findings motivate further research into bile acid metabolism in AD to elucidate their possible connection to cognitive decline.

Keywords: Alzheimer's disease; bile acids; cholesterol metabolism; genome-scale metabolic models; metabolomics; transcriptional regulatory networks; transcriptomics.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alzheimer Disease / metabolism*
  • Bile Acids and Salts / metabolism*
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Cholesterol / metabolism
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Lipid Metabolism / physiology
  • Lipogenesis / physiology
  • Metabolic Networks and Pathways / physiology*
  • Metabolomics / methods
  • Transcriptome / physiology


  • Bile Acids and Salts
  • Cholesterol