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Physiol Rev. 2018 Oct 1;98(4):1983-2023. doi: 10.1152/physrev.00054.2017.

Guts and Gall: Bile Acids in Regulation of Intestinal Epithelial Function in Health and Disease.

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Momentum Translational Gastroenterology Research Group, Hungarian Academy of Sciences-University of Szeged , Szeged , Hungary ; Institute for Translational Medicine, Medical School, University of Pécs , Pécs , Hungary ; Momentum Epithelial Cell Signalling and Secretion Research Group and First Department of Medicine, University of Szeged , Szeged , Hungary ; Division of Digestive Diseases, Department of Gastroenterology, Hammersmith Hospital, Imperial College London , London , United Kingdom ; Division of Gastroenterology, Department of Medicine, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, California ; and Department of Molecular Medicine, Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, Education and Research Centre, Beaumont Hospital , Dublin , Ireland.


Epithelial cells line the entire surface of the gastrointestinal tract and its accessory organs where they primarily function in transporting digestive enzymes, nutrients, electrolytes, and fluid to and from the luminal contents. At the same time, epithelial cells are responsible for forming a physical and biochemical barrier that prevents the entry into the body of harmful agents, such as bacteria and their toxins. Dysregulation of epithelial transport and barrier function is associated with the pathogenesis of a number of conditions throughout the intestine, such as inflammatory bowel disease, chronic diarrhea, pancreatitis, reflux esophagitis, and cancer. Driven by discovery of specific receptors on intestinal epithelial cells, new insights into mechanisms that control their synthesis and enterohepatic circulation, and a growing appreciation of their roles as bioactive bacterial metabolites, bile acids are currently receiving a great deal of interest as critical regulators of epithelial function in health and disease. This review aims to summarize recent advances in this field and to highlight how bile acids are now emerging as exciting new targets for disease intervention.

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