Endocrine functions of bile acids
Bile acids (BAs), a group of structurally diverse molecules that are primarily synthesized in the liver from cholesterol, are the chief components of bile. Besides their well-established roles in dietary lipid absorption and cholesterol homeostasis, it has recently emerged that BAs are also signaling molecules, with systemic endocrine functions. BAs activate mitogen-activated protein kinase pathways, are ligands for the G-protein-coupled receptor TGR5, and activate nuclear hormone receptors such as farnesoid X receptor alpha. Through activation of these diverse signaling pathways, BAs can regulate their own enterohepatic circulation, but also triglyceride, cholesterol, energy, and glucose homeostasis. Thus, BA-controlled signaling pathways are promising novel drug targets to treat common metabolic diseases, such as obesity, type II diabetes, hyperlipidemia, and atherosclerosis.