Completion of the gut microbial epi-bile acid pathway

Heidi L. Doden, Patricia G. Wolf, H. Rex Gaskins, Karthik Anantharaman, João M.P. Alves, Jason M. Ridlon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Bile acids are detergent molecules that solubilize dietary lipids and lipid-soluble vitamins. Humans synthesize bile acids with α-orientation hydroxyl groups which can be biotransformed by gut microbiota to toxic, hydrophobic bile acids, such as deoxycholic acid (DCA). Gut microbiota can also convert hydroxyl groups from the α-orientation through an oxo-intermediate to the β-orientation, resulting in more hydrophilic, less toxic bile acids. This interconversion is catalyzed by regio- (C-3 vs. C-7) and stereospecific (α vs. β) hydroxysteroid dehydrogenases (HSDHs). So far, genes encoding the urso- (7α-HSDH & 7β-HSDH) and iso- (3α-HSDH & 3β-HSDH) bile acid pathways have been described. Recently, multiple human gut clostridia were reported to encode 12α-HSDH, which interconverts DCA and 12-oxolithocholic acid (12-oxoLCA). 12β-HSDH completes the epi-bile acid pathway by converting 12-oxoLCA to the 12β-bile acid denoted epiDCA; however, a gene(s) encoding this enzyme has yet to be identified. We confirmed 12β-HSDH activity in cultures of Clostridium paraputrificum ATCC 25780. From six candidate C. paraputrificum ATCC 25780 oxidoreductase genes, we discovered the first gene (DR024_RS09610) encoding bile acid 12β-HSDH. Phylogenetic analysis revealed unforeseen diversity for 12β-HSDH, leading to validation of two additional bile acid 12β-HSDHs through a synthetic biology approach. By comparison to a previous phylogenetic analysis of 12α-HSDH, we identified the first potential C-12 epimerizing strains: Collinsella tanakaei YIT 12063 and Collinsella stercoris DSM 13279. A Hidden Markov Model search against human gut metagenomes located putative 12β-HSDH genes in about 30% of subjects within the cohorts analyzed, indicating this gene is relevant in the human gut microbiome.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-20
Number of pages20
JournalGut Microbes
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2021


  • 12-oxolithocholic acid
  • Bile acid
  • deoxycholic acid
  • epi-bile acid
  • hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase
  • iso-bile acid
  • urso-bile acid

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology (medical)
  • Gastroenterology
  • Infectious Diseases
  • Microbiology


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