Free fatty acids have nucleating effects in model biles

Z. Halpern*, G. Goldman, Y. Peled, F. Konikoff, J. Rattan, D. Lichtenberg, T. Gilat

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


ABSTRACT— Nucleating factors are thought to be responsible for the more rapid nucleation of gallbladder bile from patients with gallstones as compared to controls. Biliary proteins and, in particular, mucus and non‐mucus glycoproteins are the focus of current research. Non‐protein nucleating factors were not extensively investigated. In this study we studied the role of free fatty acids (FFA) as possible nucleating factors. Palmitic, oleic and linoleic acid were added to model biles in increasing concentrations from 0 to 20 μmol/ml. The nucleation time of model biles decreased to 45%‐60% of the initial following the addition of 0.5 to 1 μmol/ml of each of the three fatty acids. Only a small further decrease in the nucleation time was noted with higher concentrations of up to 20 μmol/ml. The pronucleating effect of FFA added to whole model bile was also examined in the isolated vesicular and non‐vesicular fractions. The decrease in the nucleation time at each concentration of the three fatty acids was in the following order of magnitude: whole bile > vesicular phase > non‐vesicular phase. The addition of each of the three fatty acids resulted in a partial solubilization of vesicles, with transfer of their lipid contents to the non‐vesicular fraction. The effect was more marked with oleic acid and least marked with linoleic acid. The vesicular cholesterol to phospholipid ratio did not change following the addition of exogenous free fatty acids. Studies with labeled FFA showed that they migrated with the non‐vesicular fraction on gel chromatography. The three fatty acids exerted their nucleating effect at low concentration, which may be close to the physiologic range. Free fatty acids may thus be nucleating factors in human bile. Their pathophysiologic importance and mechanism of action remain to be elucidated.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)107-111
Number of pages5
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 1992


  • bile
  • free fatty acid
  • nucleation
  • vesicles


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