Microbial Hydroxysteroid Dehydrogenases: From Alpha to Omega

Heidi L. Doden, Jason M. Ridlon

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Bile acids (BAs) and glucocorticoids are steroid hormones derived from cholesterol that are important signaling molecules in humans and other vertebrates. Hydroxysteroid dehydrogenases (HSDHs) are encoded both by the host and by their resident gut microbiota, and they reversibly convert steroid hydroxyl groups to keto groups. Pairs of HSDHs can reversibly epimerize steroids from α-hydroxy conformations to β-hydroxy, or β-hydroxy to ω-hydroxy in the case of ω-muricholic acid. These reactions often result in products with drastically different physicochemical properties than their precursors, which can result in steroids being activators or inhibitors of host receptors, can affect solubility in fecal water, and can modulate toxicity. Microbial HSDHs modulate sterols associated with diseases such as colorectal cancer, liver cancer, prostate cancer, and polycystic ovary syndrome. Although the role of microbial HSDHs is not yet fully elucidated, they may have therapeutic potential as steroid pool modulators or druggable targets in the future. In this review, we explore metabolism of BAs and glucocorticoids with a focus on biotransformation by microbial HSDHs.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number469
Pages (from-to)1-24
Number of pages24
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2021


  • hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase
  • deoxycholic acid
  • androgen
  • cortisol
  • bile acid
  • cholesterol
  • sterolbiome
  • Androgen
  • Cortisol
  • Cholesterol
  • Deoxycholic acid
  • Bile acid
  • Hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase
  • Sterolbiome

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology (medical)
  • Virology
  • Microbiology


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