Alkaline hepatic bile is acidified in the gallbladder to prevent calcium precipitation and gallstone formation. Because membrane-bound carbonic anhydrase (CA) isoenzyme IV participates with cytoplasmic CA II in the acidification of urine in the kidney, we studied its expression in different regions of the human biliary tract using immunohistochemical techniques. The enzyme was expressed in the apical plasma membrane of the gallbladder epithelial cells and in the endothelium of the subepithelial capillaries. In the liver, some epithelial cells of the large bile ducts showed positive staining. Its presence in the gallbladder epithelium could be confirmed by Western blotting, which showed a single 35-kd polypeptide band, corresponding in molecular weight to the intact enzyme. The majority of the enzyme was phased to Triton X-114 detergent phase. A small amount of 35-kd polypeptide was also seen in the water phase. Smaller proteolytic fragments of the enzyme were not seen, suggesting that the tissue sample was well preserved. The results show that CA IV is expressed in abundance in the human gallbladder epithelium, where it may participate together with cytoplasmic CA II and ion transporters in acidification of the gallbladder bile via bicarbonate reabsorption.
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