The site-specific delivery of ursodeoxycholic acid to the rat colon by sulfate conjugation

Gastroenterology. 1995 Dec;109(6):1835-44. doi: 10.1016/0016-5085(95)90750-5.


Background & aims: Because ursodeoxycholate has been shown to act as a tumor-suppressive agent in the colon, the absorption and metabolism of its sulfate conjugates were examined in rats to show that sulfation would facilitate the site-specific delivery of ursodeoxycholate to the colon.

Methods: Bile acids were measured in intestinal contents, feces, urine, plasma, and liver tissue after oral administration of ursodeoxycholate and its C-3, C-7, and C-3,7 sulfate derivatives.

Results: Ursodeoxycholate was found in the jejunum after administration of all bile acids, but the mass was greatest for ursodeoxycholic acid administration. In the colon, lithocholic acid, normally found in negligible amounts, became the major bile acid after ursodeoxycholate administration. In contrast, reductions in mass and proportions of lithocholate and deoxycholate occurred after administering the C-7 sulfates. The fecal lithocholate/deoxycholate ratio, a risk marker for colon cancer, increased markedly after administration of ursodeoxycholate and its C-3 sulfate, but did not change after administering the C-7 sulfates. Unlike ursodeoxycholate or its C-3 sulfate, which increased liver concentrations of lithocholate and ursodeoxycholate, the C-7 sulfates had the opposite effect, which was consistent with poor absorption.

Conclusions: Sulfation of ursodeoxycholate, specifically at the C-7 position, protects the molecule from bacterial degradation and inhibits its intestinal absorption, thereby facilitating delivery to the colon.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Colon / metabolism*
  • Deoxycholic Acid / metabolism
  • Feces / chemistry
  • Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry
  • Intestinal Absorption
  • Jejunum / metabolism
  • Lithocholic Acid / metabolism
  • Liver / metabolism
  • Male
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Sulfates / metabolism*
  • Ursodeoxycholic Acid / metabolism*


  • Sulfates
  • Deoxycholic Acid
  • Lithocholic Acid
  • Ursodeoxycholic Acid