Microbiome-mediated bile acid modification: Role in intestinal drug absorption and metabolism

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Graphical abstractOnce regarded obscure and underappreciated, the gut microbiota (the microbial communities colonizing the gastrointestinal tract) is gaining recognition as an influencer of many aspects of human health. Also increasingly apparent is the breadth of interindividual variation in these co-evolved microbial-gut associations, presenting novel quests to explore implications for disease and therapeutic response. In this respect, the unearthing of the drug-metabolizing capacity of the microbiota has provided impetus for the integration of microbiological and pharmacological research. This review considers a potential mechanism, ‘microbial bile acid metabolism’, by which the intricate interplay between the host and gut bacteria may influence drug pharmacokinetics. Bile salts traditionally regarded as biological surfactants, synthesized by the host and biotransformed by gut bacteria, are now also recognized as signalling molecules that affect diverse physiological processes. Accumulating data indicate that bile salts are not equivalent with respect to their physicochemical properties, micellar solubilization capacities for poorly water-soluble drugs, crystallization inhibition tendencies nor potencies for bile acid receptor activation. Herein, the origin, physicochemical properties, physiological functions, plasticity and pharmaceutical significance of the human bile acid pool are discussed. Microbial dependant differences in the composition of the human bile acid pool, simulated intestinal media and commonly used preclinical species is highlighted to better understand in vivo performance predictiveness. While the precise impact of an altered gut microbiome, and consequently bile acid pool, in the biopharmaceutical setting remains largely elusive, the objective of this article is to aid knowledge acquisition through a detailed review of the literature.

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