Treatment of patients with cholestatic liver diseases with ursodeoxycholic acid has been shown to have beneficial effects that may be related to a shift in the balance between hydrophilic and hydrophobic bile acids in favor of hydrophilic bile acids. During treatment of patients with primary sclerosing cholangitis with ursodeoxycholic acid, plasma concentrations of some endogenous bile acids decrease. To test whether the changes in plasma bile acids are due to decreases of their pool sizes or synthesis rates, we determined bile acid kinetics of cholic and chenodeoxycholic acid in six patients with primary sclerosing cholangitis, of whom four also had ulcerative colitis. All patients were studied before and 3 mo after the start of ursodeoxycholic acid treatment. Six healthy subjects served as controls. In patients with primary sclerosing cholangitis, pool sizes of cholic and chenodeoxycholic acid were considerably smaller than those in healthy controls; after ursodeoxycholic acid treatment they were unchanged. Fractional turnover and synthesis of cholic acid increased significantly after ursodeoxycholic acid administration. Fractional turnover of chenodeoxycholic acid also increased significantly, whereas synthesis of this bile acid was unchanged. Our data indicate that in patients with primary sclerosing cholangitis, pool sizes of bile acids are reduced. The decrease of levels of endogenous bile acids in plasma under ursodeoxycholic acid treatment despite unchanged bile acid pool sizes indicates redistribution of the bile acids into the enterohepatic circulation, probably because of improved hepatic clearance after ursodeoxycholic acid treatment.