Another renaissance for bile acid gastrointestinal microbiology

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


The field of bile acid microbiology in the gastrointestinal tract is going through a current rebirth after a peak of activity in the late 1970s and early 1980s. This renewed activity is a result of many factors, including the discovery near the turn of the century that bile acids are potent signalling molecules and technological advances in next-generation sequencing, computation, culturomics, gnotobiology, and metabolomics. We describe the current state of the field with particular emphasis on questions that have remained unanswered for many decades in both bile acid synthesis by the host and metabolism by the gut microbiota. Current knowledge of established enzymatic pathways, including bile salt hydrolase, hydroxysteroid dehydrogenases involved in the oxidation and epimerization of bile acid hydroxy groups, the Hylemon–Bjӧrkhem pathway of bile acid C7-dehydroxylation, and the formation of secondary allo-bile acids, is described. We cover aspects of bile acid conjugation and esterification as well as evidence for bile acid C3-dehydroxylation and C12-dehydroxylation that are less well understood but potentially critical for our understanding of bile acid metabolism in the human gut. The physiological consequences of bile acid metabolism for human health, important caveats and cautionary notes on experimental design and interpretation of data reflecting bile acid metabolism are also explored.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)348-364
Number of pages17
JournalNature Reviews Gastroenterology and Hepatology
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2024

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gastroenterology
  • Hepatology


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