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Adv Pharmacol. 2015;74:263-302. doi: 10.1016/bs.apha.2015.04.003. Epub 2015 May 27.

Bile Acid Metabolism and Signaling in Cholestasis, Inflammation, and Cancer.

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Department of Pharmacology, Toxicology and Therapeutics, The University of Kansas Medical Center, Kansas City, Kansas, USA. Electronic address:
Department of Pharmacology, Toxicology and Therapeutics, The University of Kansas Medical Center, Kansas City, Kansas, USA.


Bile acids are synthesized from cholesterol in the liver. Some cytochrome P450 (CYP) enzymes play key roles in bile acid synthesis. Bile acids are physiological detergent molecules, so are highly cytotoxic. They undergo enterohepatic circulation and play important roles in generating bile flow and facilitating biliary secretion of endogenous metabolites and xenobiotics and intestinal absorption of dietary fats and lipid-soluble vitamins. Bile acid synthesis, transport, and pool size are therefore tightly regulated under physiological conditions. In cholestasis, impaired bile flow leads to accumulation of bile acids in the liver, causing hepatocyte and biliary injury and inflammation. Chronic cholestasis is associated with fibrosis, cirrhosis, and eventually liver failure. Chronic cholestasis also increases the risk of developing hepatocellular or cholangiocellular carcinomas. Extensive research in the last two decades has shown that bile acids act as signaling molecules that regulate various cellular processes. The bile acid-activated nuclear receptors are ligand-activated transcriptional factors that play critical roles in the regulation of bile acid, drug, and xenobiotic metabolism. In cholestasis, these bile acid-activated receptors regulate a network of genes involved in bile acid synthesis, conjugation, transport, and metabolism to alleviate bile acid-induced inflammation and injury. Additionally, bile acids are known to regulate cell growth and proliferation, and altered bile acid levels in diseased conditions have been implicated in liver injury/regeneration and tumorigenesis. We will cover the mechanisms that regulate bile acid homeostasis and detoxification during cholestasis, and the roles of bile acids in the initiation and regulation of hepatic inflammation, regeneration, and carcinogenesis.


Cholestasis; Cytochrome P450; Liver cancer; Liver regeneration; Nuclear receptor

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