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Importance of large intestine in regulating bile acids and glucagon-like peptide-1 in germ-free mice

Author(s): Selwyn FP, Csanaky IL, Zhang Y, Klaassen CD


It is known that 1) elevated serum bile acids (BAs) are associated with decreased body weight, 2) elevated glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) levels can decrease body weight, and 3) germ-free (GF) mice are resistant to diet-induced obesity. The purpose of this study was to test the hypothesis that a lack of intestinal microbiota results in more BAs in the body, resulting in increased BA-mediated transmembrane G protein–coupled receptor 5 (TGR5) signaling and increased serum GLP-1 as a mechanism of resistance of GF mice to diet-induced obesity. GF mice had 2- to 4-fold increased total BAs in the serum, liver, bile, and ileum. Fecal excretion of BAs was 63% less in GF mice. GF mice had decreased secondary BAs and increased taurine-conjugated BAs, as anticipated. Surprisingly, there was an increase in non–12α-OH BAs, namely, β-muricholic acid, ursodeoxycholic acid (UDCA), and their taurine conjugates, in GF mice. Further, in vitro experiments confirmed that UDCA is a primary BA in mice. There were minimal changes in the mRNA of farnesoid X receptor target genes in the ileum (Fibroblast growth factor 15, small heterodimer protein, and ileal bile acid–binding protein), in the liver (small heterodimer protein, liver receptor homolog-1, and cytochrome P450 7a1), and BA transporters (apical sodium dependent bile acid transporter, organic solute transporter α, and organic solute transporter β) in the ileum of GF mice. Surprisingly, there were marked increases in BA transporters in the large intestine. Increased GLP-1 levels and gallbladder size were observed in GF mice, suggesting activation of TGR5 signaling. In summary, the GF condition results in increased expression of BA transporters in the colon, resulting in 1) an increase in total BA concentrations in tissues, 2) a change in BA composition to favor an increase in non–12α-OH BAs, and 3) activation of TGR5 signaling with increased gallbladder size and GLP-1.

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