We have applied a specific and accurate high pressure liquid chromatographic technique to determine fasting serum glycine and taurine conjugates of individual bile acids in patients with primary biliary cirrhosis before and during ursodeoxycholic acid therapy. The study was carried out in nine patients in whom the diagnosis of primary biliary cirrhosis was established according to accepted criteria. After one year of UDCA therapy liver function tests significantly improved. Total serum bile acid concentration did not change significantly (29.2 (31.5) v 28.3 (26.4) microM). Total UDCA (1.7 (2.2) v 13.3 (14.5) microM) and glyco UDCA (0.8 (1.6) v 10.9 (11.4 microM) but not tauro UDCA levels increased significantly (p less than 0.01); UDCA (7.7 (12.6) v 40.2 (12.7)%) became the major species of the circulating bile acids. Primary bile acids (23 (28.3) v 11.2 (10.5) and their glycoconjugates fell significantly (p less than 0.01). There were no significant changes in the concentrations of conjugates of the secondary bile acids (4.5 (3.8) v 3.9 (3.0]. Our study shows that oral administration of UDCA to patients with primary biliary cirrhosis induced marked changes in the circulating pool of endogenous bile acids together with improvement in liver function test values. The data also suggest that the beneficial effect of longterm administration of UDCA in these patients might be mediated through changes in the circulating primary bile acids and UDCA rather than through changes in the circulating secondary bile acids, deoxycholate and lithocholate.
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