Many studies have demonstrated that gallbladder bile (but not hepatic bile) of animals or patients with cholesterol gallstones contains higher protein concentrations than does gallbladder bile of control patients without stones or with pigment stones. The underlying defect has not been elucidated. To establish whether there is net production or net absorption/degradation of protein by gallbladder epithelium for different classes of protein, paired samples of hepatic and gallbladder bile were obtained from fourteen patients with cholesterol gallstones during elective cholecystectomy. In these paired samples, lipid and protein composition were determined. To obtain the concentration ratio (CR) of protein and lipid, its concentration in the gallbladder was divided by the concentration determined in the paired hepatic bile sample. The CR of bile salts was used as a parameter for water absorption in the gallbladder. Of the biliary proteins that were determined only mucin, albumin, immunoglobulin (Ig) G, and aminopeptidase N appeared to increase in the gallbladder from another cause than water absorption. A strong correlation was found between mucin, albumin, and IgG. Haptoglobin, alpha1-acid glycoprotein, IgM, and IgA appeared to be absorbed by gallbladder epithelium in the majority of patients. In cholesterol gallstone patients, total protein concentration in gallbladder bile of cholesterol gallstone patients is increased when compared with hepatic bile. The increase in protein concentration cannot be explained for all bile samples solely by water absorption. In this study we show that the defect is largely caused by a selective increase in albumin, mucin, and IgG. All other proteins which were investigated are taken up by the gallbladder.