Phospholipid lamellae are cholesterol carriers in human bile

Giora J. Sömjen, Yehuda Marikovsky, Ellen Wachtel, P. Robert C. Harvey, Ruth Rosenberg, Steven M. Strasberg, Tuvia Gilat

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41 Scopus citations


Cholesterol solubility and precipitation in bile are major factors in the pathogenesis of cholesterol gallstones. At present, mixed micelles and phospholipid vesicles are considered to be the only cholesterol carriers in bile. In this study we present evidence showing that phospholipid lamellae are major cholesterol carriers in human bile. Lamellae are a known aggregational form in pure phospholipid model systems. In the present study, lamellae were demonstrated by electron microscopy after negative staining and by small-angle X-ray diffraction in all human gallbladder bile samples examined. During diffraction experiments, cholesterol was found to crystallize from these lamellae. Cholesterol carriers in bile were separated by high-resolution chromatography and by prolonged ultracentrifugation. Lamellae were shown to solubilize most of the biliary cholesterol; vesicles solubilized a lesser amount; while micelles solubilized only a minor portion. Our data suggest that phospholipid aggregates are the main cholesterol carriers in bile. Bile salts may control the equilibrium between the various aggregational forms of cholesterol-carrying phospholipids.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)28-35
Number of pages8
JournalBiochimica et Biophysica Acta (BBA)/Lipids and Lipid Metabolism
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 16 1990


  • (Human)
  • Bile
  • Biliary cholesterol
  • Phospholipid lamellae


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