• Bile Acids as Biomarkers and Evolutionary Phenotypes

      Shiffka, Stephanie; Swaan, Peter W.; Kane, Maureen A.; 0000-0002-3571-1836 (2021)
      Bile acids (BAs) are the amphipathic end products of cholesterol metabolism and represent a critical means of cholesterol excretion. BAs have a plethora of functions, including digestive roles, homeostatic feedback loops, energy metabolism, regulation of the microbiome, inflammation, and more. These effects implicate BAs in physiological and pathological processes throughout the body, not just within the enterohepatic circuit. To date, BAs have been linked to the pathogenesis of multiple types of cancer, type 2 diabetes mellitus, metabolic syndrome, and neurological disorders, among others. In health, BA homeostasis is precisely regulated by a process termed enterohepatic circulation (EHC). Several transport proteins are instrumental to this process, and disruptions in any of these transport systems lead to dysregulation of BA homeostasis, further leading to complications such as cholestasis and liver disease. BA metabolism and the EHC are conserved throughout vertebrate evolution, but the BA pool of more modern species has been modified to be more hydrophilic while still retaining properties of digestive surfactants. Though EHC is well-characterized, the understanding of eukaryotic transporters in this process is lacking, especially at the molecular level. Despite the recognition of bile acids as signaling molecules involved in disease progression, there remain numerous BAs that are poorly characterized. This is especially important because BAs are an extremely diverse group of molecules that represent the effects of host and microbiome metabolism. Furthermore, the unique physicochemical properties of these variations confer these molecules with differential levels of cytotoxicity and divergent, sometimes opposing, activation of cell signaling pathways. Thus, the scope of this dissertation is two-fold: first, to further characterize the BA pool in health and injury using cell and animal models; secondly, to use this information in order to probe the transporter responsible for the first step of the enterohepatic circulation, ASBT (SLC10A2). Completion of the first objective yielded improved understanding of BA metabolism in cell culture models and non-human primate laboratory models, as well as in radiation injury in the latter model. Accomplishment of the second objective returned insight into ASBT and BA evolution through the use of multiple vertebrate orthologs.