Gut–liver axis, cirrhosis and portal hypertension: the chicken and the egg

Juan P. Arab, Rosa M. Martin-Mateos, Vijay H. Shah

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations


The term gut–liver axis is used to highlight the close anatomical and functional relationship between the intestine and the liver. The intestine has a highly specialized epithelial membrane which regulates transport across the mucosa. Due to dysbiosis, impairment of the intestinal barrier and altered immunity status, bacterial products can reach the liver through the portal vein, where they are recognized by specific receptors, activate the immune system and lead to a proinflammatory response. Gut microbiota and bacterial translocation play an important role in the pathogenesis of chronic liver diseases, including alcoholic and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, cirrhosis, and its complications, such as portal hypertension, spontaneous bacterial peritonitis and hepatic encephalopaty. The gut microbiota also plays a critical role as a modulator of bile acid metabolism which can also influence intestinal permeability and portal hypertension through the farnesoid-X receptor. On the other hand, cirrhosis and portal hypertension affect the microbiota and increase translocation, leading to a “chicken and egg” situation, where translocation increases portal pressure, and vice versa. A myriad of therapies targeting gut microbiota have been evaluated specifically in patients with chronic liver disease. Further studies targeting intestinal microbiota and its possible hemodynamic and metabolic effects are needed. This review summarizes the current knowledge about the role of gut microbiota in the pathogenesis of chronic liver diseases and portal hypertension.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)24-33
Number of pages10
JournalHepatology International
StatePublished - Feb 1 2018


  • Bile acids
  • Cirrhosis
  • Endotoxemia
  • Gut–liver axis
  • LPS
  • Microbiota
  • Portal hypertension
  • Translocation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Hepatology


Dive into the research topics of 'Gut–liver axis, cirrhosis and portal hypertension: the chicken and the egg'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this