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Biochim Biophys Acta. 1991 Jan 10;1091(1):41-5.

The effect of bile salts on human vascular endothelial cells.

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  • 1Liver Research Laboratories, Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Edgbaston, Birmingham, U.K.


The uptake and release of radiochromium from adult human vascular endothelial cells in culture was employed to determine the relative toxicity of different bile salts. Endothelial cells after pre-incubation with 51Cr for 18 h were incubated with bile salts for 24 h and percentage chromium release was taken as a measure of toxicity to cells. Lithocholic acid (LC) (potassium salt) was cytotoxic at concentrations greater than 50 microM. However, LC glucuronide, sulfate and the beta-epimer were progressively less toxic with toxicity seen at concentrations of 60, 110 and 180 microM, respectively. The greatest cytotoxic effect was observed with glycolithocholic acid (GLC) (potassium salt) which was toxic at every concentration tested (20-200 microM). Sulfation abolished the toxic effect of GLC. At the concentrations employed for the assay (between 20 and 240 microM) GLC sulfate (disodium salt), taurolithocholic acid sulfate (disodium salt), cholic acid (sodium salt), glycocholic acid (sodium salt), deoxycholic acid (sodium salt) and ursodeoxycholic acid (sodium salt) were not cytotoxic. The 51Cr release cytotoxicity assay was validated with lactate dehydrogenase leakage from endothelial cells with a good correlation (r = 0.87). These data confirm in a human cellular system that LC and its conjugates were the most toxic of the bile salts tested and explains its pathophysiological importance in hepatobiliary disease. It also suggests that biotransformation by either sulfation or beta-epimerisation of bile salts especially of LC, as occurs in patients with intrahepatic or extrahepatic biliary obstruction or severe cholestasis, is hepatoprotective.

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