Cholesterol is an essential lipid in vertebrates, but excess blood cholesterol promotes ather-osclerosis. In the liver, cholesterol is metabolized to bile acids by cytochrome P450, family 7, subfamily a, polypeptide 1 (CYP7A1), the transcription of which is negatively regulated by the ERK pathway. Fibroblast growth factor 21 (FGF21), a hepatokine, induces ERK phosphorylation and suppresses Cyp7a1 transcription. Taurine, a sulfur-containing amino acid, reportedly promotes cholesterol metabolism and lowers blood and hepatic cholesterol levels. However, the influence of long-term feeding of taurine on cholesterol levels and metabolism remains unclear. Here, to evaluate the more chronic effects of taurine on cholesterol levels, we analyzed mice fed a taurine-rich diet for 14–16 weeks. Long-term feeding of taurine lowered plasma cholesterol and bile acids without significantly changing other metabolic parameters, but hardly affected these levels in the liver. Moreover, taurine upregulated Cyp7a1 levels, while downregulated phosphorylated ERK and Fgf21 levels in the liver. Likewise, tau-rine-treated Hepa1-6 cells, a mouse hepatocyte line, exhibited downregulated Fgf21 levels and upreg-ulated promoter activity of Cyp7a1. These results indicate that taurine promotes cholesterol metabolism by suppressing the FGF21/ERK pathway followed by upregulating Cyp7a1 expression. Collec-tively, this study shows that long-term feeding of taurine lowers both plasma cholesterol and bile ac-ids, reinforcing that taurine effectively prevents hypercholesterolemia.
- Bile acid