Physical chemistry of biliary lipids during bile formation

Hepatology. 1990 Sep;12(3 Pt 2):143S-147S; discussion 147S-148S.


Present concepts suggest that the canalicular secretion of bile salts is monomeric, which in turn drives the hepatic secretion of lecithin and cholesterol presumably as unilamellar vesicles into bile. As biliary lipids are concentrated within the biliary tree and gallbladder, bile salts structurally alter lecithin-cholesterol vesicles to form a variety of metastable aggregates whose structures and phase transformations are predicted by phase equilibria considerations. These structural transformations ultimately result in the dispersion of biliary lipids as thermodynamically stable micelles or micelles plus thermodynamically unstable vesicles in common duct and gallbladder biles. The experiments reviewed herein represent experimental simulations of these processes. We used pure aqueous lipid systems to model the putative stages of biliary lipid aggregation on the basis of interactions of small unilamellar vesicles of lecithin-cholesterol with bile salts as the latter's concentrations were varied from below to well above the critical micellar concentration. With submicellar bile salt concentrations likely to be found within hepatocytes, vesicle structures are not appreciably altered. However, perimicellar bile salt concentrations possibly occurring in canaliculi and bile ductules induce the formation of a hexagonal rodlike phase. On further increases in bile salt concentration, the hexagonal rods (formed from lecithin-rich and cholesterol-poor vesicles) are dissolved into mixed micelles as bile salt concentrations exceed their critical micellar concentrations. In slightly cholesterol-"supersaturated" biles, the rapid dissolution of this intermediate phase results in the formation of cholesterol-supersaturated mixed micelles that, in time, give rise to a new population of cholesterol-rich vesicles that coexist with saturated micelles.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bile / metabolism*
  • Chemical Phenomena
  • Chemistry, Physical
  • Gallbladder / physiology
  • Humans
  • Lipid Metabolism*
  • Micelles
  • Models, Biological


  • Micelles