Stability of mixed micellar bile models supersaturated with cholesterol

D. Lichtenberg*, S. Ragimova, A. Bor, S. Almog, C. Vinkler, M. Kalina, Y. Peled, Z. Halpern

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


The maximal equilibrium solubility of cholesterol in mixtures of phosphatidylcholine (PC)1 and bile salts depends on the cholesterol/PC ratio (Rc) and on the effective ratio (Re) between nonmonomeric bile salts and the sum (CT) of PC and cholesterol concentrations (Carey and Small, 1978; Lichtenberg et al., 1984). By contrast, the concentration of bile salts required for solubilization of liposomes made of PC and cholesterol does not depend on Rc (Lichtenberg et al., 1984 and 1988). Thus, for Rc greater than 0.4, solubilization of the PC-cholesterol liposomes yields PC-cholesterol-bile salts mixed micellar systems which are supersaturated with cholesterol. In these metastable systems, the mixed micelles spontaneously undergo partial revesiculation followed by crystallization of cholesterol. The rate of the latter processes depends upon Rc, Re, and CT. For any given Rc and Re, the rate of revesiculation increases dramatically with increasing the lipid concentration CT, reflecting the involvement of many mixed micelles in the formation of each vesicle. The rate also increases, for any given CT and Re, upon increasing the cholesterol to PC ratio, Rc, probably due to the increasing degree of supersaturation. Increasing the cholate to lipid effective ratio, Re, by elevation of cholate concentration at constant Rc and CT has a complex effect on the rate of the revesiculation process. As expected, cholate concentration higher than that required for complete solubilization at equilibrium yields stable mixed micellar systems which do not undergo revesiculation, but for lower cholate concentrations decreasing the degree of supersaturation (by increasing [cholate]) results in faster revesiculation. We interpret these results in terms of the structure of the mixed micelles; micelles with two or more PC molecules per one molecule of cholesterol are relatively stable but increasing the bile salt concentration may cause dissociation of such 1:2 cholesterol:PC complexes, hence reducing the stability of the mixed micellar dispersions. The instability of PC-cholesterol-cholate mixed systems with intermediary range of cholate to lipids ratio may be significant to gallbladder stone formation as: (a) biliary bile contains PC-cholesterol vesicles which may be, at least partially, solubilized by bile salts during the process of bile concentration in the gallbladder, resulting in mixtures similar to our model systems; and (b) the bile composition of cholesterol gallstone patients is within an intermediary range of bile salts to lipids ratio.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1013-1025
Number of pages13
JournalBiophysical Journal
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1988


FundersFunder number
Israeli Academy of Sciences
Ministeriet Sundhed Forebyggelse


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