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Keywords:

  • bile acid toxicity;
  • bile duct ligation;
  • inflammation;
  • obstructive cholestasis

Abstract

Background

Cholestatic liver diseases can be caused by genetic defects, drug toxicities, hepatobiliary malignancies or obstruction of the biliary tract. Cholestasis leads to accumulation of bile acids (BAs) in hepatocytes. Direct toxicity of BAs is currently the most accepted hypothesis for cholestatic liver injury. However, information on which bile acids are actually accumulating during cholestasis is limited.

Aim

To assess the BA composition in liver and serum after bile duct ligation (BDL) in male C57Bl/6 mice between 6 h and 14 days and evaluate toxicity of the most abundant BAs.

Results

Bile acid concentrations increased in liver (27-fold) and serum (1400-fold) within 6 h after surgery and remained elevated up to 14 days. BAs in livers of BDL mice became more hydrophilic than sham controls, mainly because of increased 6β-hydroxylation and taurine conjugation. Among the eight unconjugated and 16 conjugated BAs identified in serum and liver, only taurocholic acid (TCA), β-muricholic acid (βMCA) and TβMCA were substantially elevated representing >95% of these BAs over the entire time course. Although glycochenodeoxycholic acid and other conjugated BAs increased in BDL animals, the changes were several orders of magnitude lower compared with TCA, βMCA and TβMCA. A mixture of these BAs did not cause apoptosis or necrosis, but induced inflammatory gene expression in cultured murine hepatocytes.

Conclusion

The concentrations of cytotoxic BAs are insufficient to cause hepatocellular injury. In contrast, TCA, βMCA and TβMCA are able to induce pro-inflammatory mediators in hepatocytes. Thus, BAs act as inflammagens and not as cytotoxic mediators after BDL in mice.