Distribution of cholesterol between vesicles and micelles in human gallbladder bile: Influence of treatment with chenodeoxycholic acid and ursodeoxycholic acid



The present study aimed at determining the relative distribution of cholesterol between the vesicular and micellar phases in gallbladder bile of gallstone patients (n = 23) and gallstone-free subjects (n = 7). Nine of the gallstone patients were treated with chenodeoxycholic acid and seven were treated with ursodeoxycholic acid, 15 mg/kg/day, for 3 wk before cholecystectomy. The vesicular and micellar fractions in bile were separated by sucrose density gradient ultracentrifugation, and a clear separation between the two phases was obtained. The vesicles were further identified by quasielastic light scattering spectroscopy and appeared to be of a uniform size with a mean hydrodynamic radius of 760 Å. The proportion of cholesterol in the vesicular fraction was significantly higher in the untreated gallstone group (40% ± 4%) compared with the gallstone-free (28% ± 3%), ursodeoxycholic acid (28% ± 3%) and chenodeoxycholic acid (18%± 4%) groups. Despite a low cholesterol saturation of bile in the latter three groups (88% ± 12%, 51% ± 9% and 65% ± 5%, respectively), a considerable part of the biliary cholesterol was carried in the vesicular fraction. The cholesterol/phospholipid ratio in the vesicular fraction averaged between 0.49 and 0.58 in the gallstone, gallstone-free and chenode-oxycholic acid groups, whereas the ursodeoxycholic acid group had a significantly lower ratio of 0.24. The cholesterol/phospholipid ratio was about 0.15 in all micellar fractions. The nucleation time of bile from the gallstone group was short (2 ± 1 days) compared with the gallstone-free, chenodeoxycholic acid and ursodeoxycholic acid groups (23 ± 3, 24 ± 6 and 14 ± 3 days, respectively). These observations give further support to the concept that the mechanism for gallstone dissolution is complex and different for chenodeoxycholic acid and ursodeoxycholic acid. (HEPATOLOGY 1991;13:104–110).