The Hylemon-Björkhem pathway of bile acid 7-dehydroxylation: history, biochemistry, and microbiology

Jason M. Ridlon, Steven L. Daniel, H. Rex Gaskins

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Bile acids are detergents derived from cholesterol that function to solubilize dietary lipids, remove cholesterol from the body, and act as nutrient signaling molecules in numerous tissues with functions in the liver and gut being the best understood. Studies in the early 20th century established the structures of bile acids, and by mid-century, the application of gnotobiology to bile acids allowed differentiation of host-derived “primary” bile acids from “secondary” bile acids generated by host-associated microbiota. In 1960, radiolabeling studies in rodent models led to determination of the stereochemistry of the bile acid 7-dehydration reaction. A two-step mechanism was proposed, which we have termed the Samuelsson-Bergström model, to explain the formation of deoxycholic acid. Subsequent studies with humans, rodents, and cell extracts of Clostridium scindens VPI 12708 led to the realization that bile acid 7-dehydroxylation is a result of a multi-step, bifurcating pathway that we have named the Hylemon-Björkhem pathway. Due to the importance of hydrophobic secondary bile acids and the increasing measurement of microbial bai genes encoding the enzymes that produce them in stool metagenome studies, it is important to understand their origin.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number100392
JournalJournal of Lipid Research
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2023


  • allo-bile acids
  • bile acid dehydroxylation
  • bile acids
  • enterohepatic circulation
  • gut microbiome
  • intestinal lipid metabolism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology
  • Biochemistry
  • Cell Biology


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