The formation of ursodeoxycholic acid, the 7 beta-hydroxy epimer of chenodeoxycholic acid, was investigated in three subjects with cerebrotendinous xanthomatosis and in four subjects with gallstones. Total biliary bile acid composition was analyzed by gas-liquid chromatography before and after 4 months of treatment with 0.75 g/day of chenodeoxycholic acid. Individual bile acids were identified by mass spectrometry. Before treatment, bile from cerebrotendinous xanthomatosis (CTX) subjects contained cholic acid, 85%; chenodeoxycholic acid, 7%; deoxycholic acid, 3%; allocholic acid, 3%; and unidentified steroids, 2%; while bile from gallstone subjects contained cholic acid, 45%; chenodeoxycholic acid, 43%; deoxycholic acid, 11%, and lithocholic acid, 1%. In all subjects, 4 months of chenodeoxycholic acid therapy increased the proportion of this bile acid to approximately 80% and decreased cholic acid to 3% of the total biliary bile acids, the remaining 17% of bile acids were identified as ursodeoxycholic acid. After the intravenous injection of [3H]chenodeoxycholic acid, the specific activity of biliary ursodeoxycholic acid exceeded the specific activity of chenodeoxycholic acid, and the resulting specific activity decay curves suggested precursor-product relationships. When [3H]7-ketolithocholic acid was administrated to another patient treated with chenodeoxycholic acid, radioactivity was detected in both the ursodeoxycholic acid and chenodeoxycholic acid fractions. These results indicate that substantial amounts of ursodeoxycholic acid are formed in patients treated with chenodeoxycholic acid. The ursodeoxycholic acid was synthesized from chenodeoxycholic acid presumably via 7-ketolithocholic acid.
G Salen, G S Tint, B Eliav, N Deering, E H Mosbach