At high concentrations, bile salts induce hemolysis by comicellization of lipid components of the cell membrane. However, bile salts are also associated with hemolysis at lower concentrations by mechanisms which have not been characterized. To investigate the possibility that bile salts promote calcium uptake by red blood cells and that bile salt-associated hemolysis is, in part, calcium-mediated, calcium uptake by red blood cells was measured in the presence of individual bile salts, and hemolysis dependence upon calcium availability was examined.
Washed human red blood cells with or without ATP depletion were incubated with 1 mM CaCl2 and tracer amounts of 45CaCl2 in the presence of selected bile salts at concentrations (0.01 to 0.3 mM reported to be below critical micellar concentrations. Calcium uptake (defined for the purposes of this study as 45Ca retained in red blood cells) was monitored over 5 hr, after which hemolysis and membrane phospholipid content were determined. The presence of bile salts stimulated calcium uptake 4- to 25-fold—the magnitude of which was partly related to the lipid solubility of the bile salts. ATP depletion or exposure to trifluoperazine, procedures which inhibit calcium pump activity in red blood cells, enhanced bile salt-induced calcium uptake relative to controls. The percentage of associated hemolysis (2 to 14%) at the end of 5 hr correlated directly with the observed calcium uptake. Removal of calcium from the extracellular space reduced hemolysis in the presence of bile salts to control levels. After red blood cells exposed to bile salts and calcium were hemolyzed, 10% of the measured calcium uptake by intact cells and 60% of the measured bile salt uptake by intact cells remained with the membrane fraction. Overall, the above results are compatible with the hypothesis that, at concentrations below critical micellar concentrations, bile salts are associated with calcium-dependent hemolysis which results, in part, from increased calcium uptake by cells.