Background Decreased gallbladder smooth muscle (GBSM) contractility is a hallmark of cholesterol gallstone disease, but the interrelationship between lithogenicity, biliary stasis, and inflammation are poorly understood. We studied a mouse model of gallstone disease to evaluate the development of GBSM dysfunction relative to changes in bile composition and the onset of sterile cholecystitis.
Methods BALB/cJ mice were fed a lithogenic diet for up to 8 weeks, and tension generated by gallbladder muscle strips was measured. Smooth muscle Ca2+ transients were imaged in intact gallbladder.
Key Results Lipid composition of bile was altered lithogenically as early as 1 week, with increased hydrophobicity and cholesterol saturation indexes; however, inflammation was not detectable until the fourth week. Agonist-induced contractility was reduced from weeks 2 through 8. GBSM normally exhibits rhythmic synchronized Ca2+ flashes, and their frequency is increased by carbachol (3 μm). After 1 week, lithogenic diet-fed mice exhibited disrupted Ca2+ flash activity, manifesting as clustered flashes, asynchronous flashes, or prolonged quiescent periods. These changes could lead to a depletion of intracellular Ca2+ stores, which are required for agonist-induced contraction, and diminished basal tone of the organ. Responsiveness of Ca2+ transients to carbachol was reduced in mice on the lithogenic diet, particularly after 4–8 weeks, concomitant with appearance of mucosal inflammatory changes.
Conclusions & Inferences These observations demonstrate that GBSM dysfunction is an early event in the progression of cholesterol gallstone disease and that it precedes mucosal inflammation.