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Front Neurosci. 2017 Nov 7;11:617. doi: 10.3389/fnins.2017.00617. eCollection 2017.

Bile Acid Signaling Pathways from the Enterohepatic Circulation to the Central Nervous System.

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Master's Program in Biomedical Sciences, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, Netherlands.
Department of Endocrinology and Metabolism, Academic Medical Center, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, Netherlands.
Laboratory of Endocrinology, Department Clinical Chemistry, Academic Medical Centre, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, Netherlands.
Department of Hypothalamic Integration Mechanisms, Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience, Amsterdam, Netherlands.


Bile acids are best known as detergents involved in the digestion of lipids. In addition, new data in the last decade have shown that bile acids also function as gut hormones capable of influencing metabolic processes via receptors such as FXR (farnesoid X receptor) and TGR5 (Takeda G protein-coupled receptor 5). These effects of bile acids are not restricted to the gastrointestinal tract, but can affect different tissues throughout the organism. It is still unclear whether these effects also involve signaling of bile acids to the central nervous system (CNS). Bile acid signaling to the CNS encompasses both direct and indirect pathways. Bile acids can act directly in the brain via central FXR and TGR5 signaling. In addition, there are two indirect pathways that involve intermediate agents released upon interaction with bile acids receptors in the gut. Activation of intestinal FXR and TGR5 receptors can result in the release of fibroblast growth factor 19 (FGF19) and glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1), both capable of signaling to the CNS. We conclude that when plasma bile acids levels are high all three pathways may contribute in signal transmission to the CNS. However, under normal physiological circumstances, the indirect pathway involving GLP-1 may evoke the most substantial effect in the brain.


CNS; FGF19; FXR; GLP-1; TGR5; bile acids; brain

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