The pathogenesis of hemolysis-induced gallstones was studied in mice with a hereditary hemolytic disease called normoblastic anemia (genotype nb/nb) and in their normal controls (genotype +/+). Infrared spectroscopy demonstrated that spontaneously formed gallstones from nb/nb mice were nearly identical to stones from patients with chronic hemolysis as the result of sickle cell disease, and both mouse and human stones strikingly resembled synthetic calcium bilirubinate. 57% of 115 nb/nb mice, but none of 109 control mice, developed calcium bilirubinate pigment gallstones (P < 0.001). The incidence of luminal gallstones in nb/nb mice was both sex and age dependent. Female nb/nb mice formed stones twice as frequently as male nb/nb mice (P < 0.001). Before 6 mo of age neither sex developed stones, but thereafter the incidence of stones increased with age. Neither hematocrit, reticulocyte count, nor total plasma bilirubin values, were useful in distinguishing between nb/nb mice with or without gallstones. In gallbladder bile, nb/nb mice with gallstones had higher concentrations of hydrogen ion, total bilirubin, calcium, and bile acids than nb/nb mice without stones. Although total unconjugated bilirubin was similar in both nb/nb groups, the ionized fraction of unconjugated bilirubin was higher in bile from nb/nb mice without stones than those with stones. In nb/nb mice, neutral mucin plugs and pigment concentrations were observed histologically in the glandular crypts of the gallbladder in 33% of nb/nb mice without stones and in 80% of nb/nb mice with luminal stones. This suggested that luminal pigment stone disease in mice with hemolysis may be preceded by microscopic precipitation of calcium bilirubinate in the glandular crypts of the gallbladder. These precipitates may then migrate into the lumen and grow by accretion.
Bruce W. Trotman, Seldon E. Bernstein, Kevin E. Bove, Gary D. Wirt