Plasma fetal bile acids 7α-hydroxy-3-oxochol-4-en-24-oic acid and 3-oxachola-4,6-dien-24-oic acid indicate severity of liver cirrhosis

Sci Rep. 2021 Apr 15;11(1):8298. doi: 10.1038/s41598-021-87921-5.


Two 3-oxo-Δ4 fetal bile acids, 3-oxachola-4,6-dien-24-oic acid (1) and 7α-hydroxy-3-oxochol-4-en-24-oic acid (2), occur normally in the human fetus but remain elevated in neonates and children with severe cholestatic liver disease due to an autosomal recessive inborn error of metabolism affecting Δ4-3-oxo-steroid 5β-reductase (AKR1D1). Relatively little is known about 1 and 2 in adult patients with liver disease. The chemical synthesis of 1 and 2 is therefore described and their quantitation in plasma by ultrarapid chromatography-triple quadrupole mass spectrometry. Plasma concentrations of 1 and 2 were investigated in 25 adult patients with varying degrees of liver cirrhosis with and without hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Highly statistically significant correlations (P < 0.0001) were found between severity of liver cirrhosis, determined by the Child-Pugh and MELD scores, with plasma 1 and 2 concentrations, both alone and combined. The presence of HCC did not influence these correlations. Plasma cholic, chenodeoxycholic, deoxycholic, lithocholic or ursodeoxycholic acids, free and as their glycine or taurine conjugates, did not correlate with Child-Pugh or MELD score when corrected for multiple comparisons. These findings demonstrate that plasma levels of fetal bile acids 3-oxachola-4,6-dien-24-oic acid and 7α-hydroxy-3-oxochol-4-en-24-oic acid and likely deteriorating AKR1D1 activity indicate the severity of liver cirrhosis measured by the Child-Pugh and MELD scores.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Bile Acids and Salts / blood*
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / complications
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Liver Cirrhosis / complications
  • Liver Cirrhosis / diagnosis*
  • Liver Neoplasms / complications
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Oxidoreductases / metabolism
  • Severity of Illness Index


  • Bile Acids and Salts
  • Biomarkers
  • Oxidoreductases
  • 3-oxo-5 beta-steroid delta 4-dehydrogenase