Dual Role of Bile Acids on the Biliary Epithelium: Friend or Foe?
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Bile acids are a family of amphipathic compounds predominantly known for their role in solubilizing and absorbing hydrophobic compounds (including liposoluble vitamins) in the intestine. Bile acids also are key signaling molecules and inflammatory agents that activate transcriptional factors and cell signaling pathways that regulate lipid, glucose, and energy metabolism in various human disorders, including chronic liver diseases. However, in the last decade increased awareness has been founded on the physiological and chemical heterogeneity of this category of compounds and their possible beneficial or injurious effects on the biliary tree. In this review, we provide an update on the current understanding of the molecular mechanism involving bile acid and biliary epithelium. The last achievements of the research in this field are summarized, focusing on the molecular aspects and the elements with relevance regarding human liver diseases.