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Keywords:

  • bile;
  • bile salt;
  • cholesterol;
  • mouse;
  • nuclear receptor;
  • phospholipid

Cholesterol supersaturation, hydrophobic bile salts, pronucleating proteins and impaired gall-bladder motility may contribute to gallstone pathogenesis. We here show that both gallstone-susceptible C57L and gallstone-resistant AKR male inbred mice exhibit supersaturated gall-bladder biles during early lithogenesis, whereas bile-salt composition becomes hydrophobic only in susceptible C57L mice. In vitro, cholesterol crystallization occurs depending on relative amounts of lipids; excess cholesterol may exceed solubilizing capacity of mixed bile salt—phospholipid micelles, whereas excess bile salts compared with phospholipids leads to deficient cholesterol-storage capacity in vesicles. In vivo, bile lipid contents are mainly determined at the level of the hepatocyte canalicular membrane, where specific transport proteins enable lipid secretion [ABCG5/G8 (ATP-binding cassette transporter G5/G8) for cholesterol, MDR3 (multi-drug resistant 3) for phospholipid, BSEP (bile salt export pump)]. These transport proteins are regulated by farnesoid X and liver X nuclear receptors. After nascent bile formation, modulation of bile water contents in biliary tract and gall-bladder exerts critical effects on cholesterol crystallization. During progressive bile concentration (particularly in the fasting gall-bladder), cholesterol and, preferentially, phospholipid transfer occurs from cholesterol-unsaturated vesicles to emerging mixed micelles. The remaining unstable cholesterol-enriched vesicles may nucleate crystals. Various aquaporins have recently been discovered throughout the biliary tract, with potential relevance for gallstone formation.