1. [14C]Cholesterol was administered intravenously via the umbilical vein to foetal sheep in the latter half of gestation, and the incorporation of radioactive label into foetal bile acids was assessed.
2. After 4 days, 0·5–2% of the radioactive label was found in foetal bile. Seventy to eighty per cent of the radioactive label in foetal bile was present as [14C]taurocholic acid and [14C]taurochenodeoxycholic acid. The remainder was [14C]cholesterol. No radioactive label was found in taurodeoxycholic acid, or in any of the glycine-conjugated bile acids.
3. It is concluded that the foetal sheep liver in the second half of gestation synthesizes taurocholic acid and taurochenodeoxycholic acid. However, the secondary bile acid taurodeoxycholic acid and the glycine-conjugated bile acids, present in foetal bile, have been acquired by placental transfer from the mother.