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N-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid attenuates cholesterol gallstones by suppressing mucin production with a high cholesterol diet in mice



Mr Dong Ki Lee, Department of Internal Medicine, Gangnam Severance Hospital, Yonsei University College of Medicine, 712 Eonjuro Gangnam-gu, Seoul 135-270, Korea. Email:


Background and Aim

The increasing prevalence of cholesterol gallstone (CG) disease has become an economic burden to the healthcare system. Ursodeoxycholic acid (UDCA) is the only established medical agent used to dissolve gallstones. In investigating novel therapeutics for CG, we assessed the preventive effects of n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (n-3PUFA) on the formation of CG induced by feeding a lithogenic diet (LD) containing high cholesterol levels to mice.


Mice were divided into the following six groups: (A) regular diet (RD); (B) RD+n-3PUFA; (C) LD; (D) LD+n-3PUFA; (E) LD+UDCA; (F) LD+n-3PUFA+UDCA. After RD/LD feeding for 2 weeks, n-3PUFA or UDCA was administered orally and the diet maintained for 8 weeks. The levels of phospholipids and cholesterol in bile, CG formation, gallbladder wall thickness, MUC gene expression in gallbladder were analyzed.


No stone or sludge was evident in the RD groups (Groups A, B). Mice in the n-3PUFA treatment (Groups D, F) showed significantly lower stone formation than the other LD groups (Groups C, E). The combination treatment of n-3PUFA and UDCA suppressed stone formation more than mono-therapy with n-3PUFA or UDCA. Bile phospholipid levels were significantly elevated in the Group F. Hypertrophy of the gallbladder wall was evident in mice fed LD. MUC 2, 5AC, 5B and 6 mRNA expression levels were significantly elevated in the LD-fed group, and this was suppressed by n-3PUFA with or without UDCA.


N-3PUFA attenuated gallstone formation in mouse, through increasing the levels of bile phospholipids and suppressing bile mucin formation.