Bile salts and cholestasis

Lucas Maillette de Buy Wenniger, Ulrich Beuers*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalShort surveyAcademicpeer-review


Bile salts have a crucial role in hepatobiliary and intestinal homeostasis and digestion. Primary bile salts are synthesized by the liver from cholesterol, and may be modified by the intestinal flora to form secondary and tertiary bile salts. Bile salts are efficiently reabsorbed from the intestinal lumen to undergo enterohepatic circulation. In addition to their function as a surfactant involved in the absorption of dietary lipids and fat-soluble vitamins bile salts are potent signaling molecules in both the liver and intestine.Under physiological conditions the bile salt pool is tightly regulated, but the adaptive capacity may fall short under cholestatic conditions. Elevated serum and tissue levels of potentially toxic hydrophobic bile salts during cholestasis may cause mitochondrial damage, apoptosis or necrosis in susceptible cell types.Therapeutic nontoxic bile salts may restore impaired hepatobiliary secretion in cholestatic disorders. The hydrophilic bile salt ursodeoxycholate is today regarded as the effective standard treatment of primary biliary cirrhosis and intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy, and is implicated for use in various other cholestatic conditions. Novel therapeutic bile salts that are currently under evaluation may also prove valuable in the treatment of these diseases.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)409-418
Number of pages10
JournalDigestive and Liver Disease
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2010
Externally publishedYes

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