Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland
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The secondary bile acids, ursodeoxycholic acid and lithocholic acid, protect against intestinal inflammation by inhibition of epithelial apoptosis.

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posted on 2020-12-17, 15:18 authored by Natalia LajczakmcginleyNatalia Lajczakmcginley, Emanuel Porru, Ciara Fallon, Jessica SmythJessica Smyth, Caitriona CurleyCaitriona Curley, Paul A McCarron, Murtaza M Tambuwala, Aldo Roda, Stephen KeelyStephen Keely
Increased epithelial permeability is a key feature of IBD pathogenesis and it has been proposed that agents which promote barrier function may be of therapeutic benefit. We have previously reported the secondary bile acid, ursodeoxycholic acid (UDCA), to be protective in a mouse model of colonic inflammation and that its bacterial metabolism is required for its beneficial effects. The current study aimed to compare the effects of UDCA, LCA, and a non-metabolizable analog of UDCA, 6-methyl-UDCA (6-MUDCA), on colonic barrier function and mucosal inflammation in a mouse model of colonic inflammation. Bile acids were administered daily to C57Bl6 mice by intraperitoneal injection. Colonic inflammation, induced by addition of DSS (2.5%) to the drinking water, was measured as disease activity index (DAI) and histological score. Epithelial permeability and apoptosis were assessed by measuring FITC-dextran uptake and caspase-3 cleavage, respectively. Cecal bile acids were measured by HPLC-MS/MS. UDCA and LCA, but not 6-MUDCA, were protective against DSS-induced increases in epithelial permeability and colonic inflammation. Furthermore, UDCA and LCA inhibited colonic epithelial caspase-3 cleavage both in DSS-treated mice and in an in vitro model of cytokine-induced epithelial injury. HPLC-MS/MS analysis revealed UDCA administration to increase colonic LCA levels, whereas LCA administration did not alter UDCA levels. UDCA, and its primary metabolite, LCA, protect against intestinal inflammation in vivo, at least in part, by inhibition of epithelial apoptosis and promotion of barrier function. These data suggest that clinical trials of UDCA in IBD patients are warranted.


Pharmaceutical and nutraceutical targeting of the farnesoid X receptor for treatment of chroinc intestinal diseases | Funder: Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) | Grant ID: 16/IA/4445

Metabolically Stable Analogues of Ursodeoxycholic Acid for Treatment of Inflammatory Bowel Disease. | Funder: Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) | Grant ID: N/A

As per grant 1870 | Funder: Crohn's & Colitis Foundation of America - CCFA | Grant ID: 354322



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Published Citation

Lajczak-McGinley NK, Porru E, Fallon CM, Smyth J, Curley C, McCarron PA, Tambuwala MM, Roda A, Keely SJ. The secondary bile acids, ursodeoxycholic acid and lithocholic acid, protect against intestinal inflammation by inhibition of epithelial apoptosis. Physiological Reports. 2020;8(12):e14456.

Publication Date

19 June 2020

PubMed ID



  • Beaumont Hospital
  • Molecular Medicine

Research Area

  • Cancer
  • Immunity, Infection and Inflammation




  • Published Version (Version of Record)