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Role of Gallbladder Mucus Hypersecretion in the Evolution of Cholesterol Gallstones: STUDIES IN THE PRAIRIE DOG

Sum P. Lee, J. Thomas Lamont and Martin C. Carey


Department of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts 02115


Division of Gastroenterology, Peter Bent Brigham Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts 02115


Division of Brigham and Women's Hospital, Inc., Boston, Massachusetts 02115

Published June 1, 1981

Because mucin glycoproteins may be important in the pathophysiology of gallstones, we studied the relationship among biliary lipids, gallbladder mucin secretion, and gallstone formation in cholesterol-fed prairie dogs. Organ culture studies of gallbladder explants revealed that the incorporation of [3H]glucosamine into tissue and secretory gallbladder glycoproteins was significantly increased at 3, 5, 8, and 14 d of feeding. Peak secretion of labeled mucin occurred at 5 d, when total tissue and secreted glycoprotein production was fivefold greater than control. Gel filtration of the secreted glycoprotein on Sepharose 4B indicated that the majority of radioactivity was present in a macromolecule of > 1 million molecular weight. The increased secretion of gallbladder mucin was organ specific, in that [3H]glucosamine incorporation into glycoproteins of stomach and colon was unaffected by cholesterol feeding. Similarly, the incorporation of [3H]mannose into gallbladder membrane glycoproteins was not altered by cholesterol feeding. The rate of glycoprotein synthesis and secretion returned to normal upon withdrawal of the cholesterol diet, and ligation of the cystic duct before cholesterol feeding prevented gallbladder mucin hypersecretion. Both results indicate that the stimulus to mucin secretion was a constituent of bile. Gallbladder bile after 5 d contained cholesterol in micelles, liquid crystals, and crystals, whereas hepatic bile remained a single micellar phase throughout cholesterol feeding. For this reason the cholesterol-saturation indices of gallbladder bile were compared in both homogenized and centrifuged samples. The micellar phase of gallbladder bile was appreciably less saturated than homogenized bile at 5 and 8 d, which reflects the continuous nucleation of cholesterol in the gallbladder. Purified human gallbladder mucin gels were shown to induce nucleation of lecithin-cholesterol liquid crystals from supersaturated hepatic bile. These in turn gave rise to cholesterol monohydrate crystals within 18 h. Control supersaturated hepatic bile could not be nucleated by the addition of other proteins, and was stable for days upon standing. These results suggest that the increase in cholesterol content of bile in cholesterolfed prairie dogs stimulates gallbladder mucus hypersecretion, and that gallbladder mucus gel is a nucleating agent for biliary cholesterol.

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