Probiotic microorganisms have been documented over the past two decades to play a role in cholesterol-lowering properties via various clinical trials. Several mechanisms have also been proposed and the ability of these microorganisms to deconjugate bile via production of bile salt hydrolase (BSH) has been widely associated with their cholesterol lowering potentials in prevention of hypercholesterolemia. Deconjugated bile salts are more hydrophobic than their conjugated counterparts, thus are less reabsorbed through the intestines resulting in higher excretion into the feces. Replacement of new bile salts from cholesterol as a precursor subsequently leads to decreased serum cholesterol levels. However, some controversies have risen attributed to the activities of deconjugated bile acids that repress the synthesis of bile acids from cholesterol. Deconjugated bile acids have higher binding affinity towards some orphan nuclear receptors namely the farsenoid X receptor (FXR), leading to a suppressed transcription of the enzyme cholesterol 7-alpha hydroxylase (7AH), which is responsible in bile acid synthesis from cholesterol. This notion was further corroborated by our current docking data, which indicated that deconjugated bile acids have higher propensities to bind with the FXR receptor as compared to conjugated bile acids. Bile acids-activated FXR also induces transcription of the IBABP gene, leading to enhanced recycling of bile acids from the intestine back to the liver, which subsequently reduces the need for new bile formation from cholesterol. Possible detrimental effects due to increased deconjugation of bile salts such as malabsorption of lipids, colon carcinogenesis, gallstones formation and altered gut microbial populations, which contribute to other varying gut diseases, were also included in this review. Our current findings and review substantiate the need to look beyond BSH deconjugation as a single factor/mechanism in strain selection for hypercholesterolemia, and/or as a sole mean to justify a cholesterol-lowering property of probiotic strains.
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