Description and simulation of a physiological pharmacokinetic model for the metabolism and enterohepatic circulation of bile acids in man. Cholic acid in healthy man

J Clin Invest. 1983 Apr;71(4):1003-22. doi: 10.1172/jci110828.


A multicompartmental pharmacokinetic model based on physiological principles, experimental data, and the standard mathematical principles of compartmental analysis has been constructed that fully describes the metabolism and enterohepatic cycling in man of cholic acid, a major bile acid. The model features compartments and linear transfer coefficients. The compartments are aggregated into nine spaces based on physiological considerations (liver, gallbladder, bile ducts, jejunum, ileum, colon, portal blood sinusoidal blood, and general circulation). The transfer coefficients are also categorized according to function: flow, i.e., emptying of gallbladder or intestinal spaces, and circulation of the blood; biotransformation, i.e., conjugation, deconjugation, or dehydroxylation; and transport, i.e., active or passive transport. The model is made time dependent by introducing meals, which trigger discrete increases in gallbladder emptying and intestinal flow. Each space contains three compartments. For cholic acid, these are unconjugated cholic acid, cholylglycine, and cholyltaurine. The model was then used with all existing experimental data to simulate cholic acid metabolism in healthy man over a 24-h period. Satisfactory agreement was obtained between simulated and experimental results for serum bile acid levels, hepatic bile acid secretion, and bile acid secretion into the intestine. The model was also used to classify 16 clinical instances in which the enterohepatic circulation of bile acids is altered by drugs or disease. The model can be extended to describe completely the metabolism and enterohepatic circulation of any bile acids in man in health and digestive disease. The model should also be broadly applicable to the description of the pharmacokinetics of all other drugs whose metabolism is similar to that of bile acids, i.e., drugs for which there are tissue and bacterial biotransformations, enterohepatic cycling, and appreciable first-pass clearance.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Bile Acids and Salts / metabolism*
  • Bile Acids and Salts / physiology
  • Bile Ducts / metabolism
  • Biological Transport
  • Biotransformation
  • Cholic Acids / metabolism
  • Circadian Rhythm
  • Colon / metabolism
  • Enterohepatic Circulation*
  • Gallbladder / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Ileum / metabolism
  • Jejunum / metabolism
  • Liver / metabolism
  • Models, Biological*


  • Bile Acids and Salts
  • Cholic Acids