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Canadian Journal of Gastroenterology
Volume 8, Issue 5, Pages 333-338
Experimental Gastroenterology

Effect of Nicotine on Gallbladder Bile

Anglo-Dutch Nicotine Intestinal Study Group, Michael Rhodes,1 Freek J Zijlastra,2 D Michael Bradburn,1 Emmanuel D Srivastava,1 APM van Dijk,3 Michael AH Russell,1 Mark Van Blankenstein,3 JH Paul Wilson,3 Adrian Allen,4 and John Rhodes1

1Departments of Surgery and Physiological Sciences, University of Newcastle upon Tyne, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK
2Department of Gastroenterology, University Hospital of Wales, Cardiff, UK
3Departments of Pharmacology and Internal Medicine 11, Erasmus University, Rotterrdam, The Netherlands
4Imperial Cancer Research Fund Health Behaviour Unit, Institute of Psychiatry, London, UK

Received 21 December 1993; Accepted 20 June 1994

Copyright © 1994 Hindawi Publishing Corporation. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Several studies have shown that symptomatic gallstones are largely a disease of nonsmokers, which raises the possibility that nicotine may protect against the formation of gallstones. To examine the effect of nicotine on the gallbladder, 32 rabbits were allocated to four groups: controls and three treatment groups in which nicotine tartarate at low, medium and high doses was administered subcutaneously via an osmotic minipump. After 14 days’ treatment the gallbladder was removed and measurements made of gallbladder mucin synthesis, bile mucin concentration, bile acid concentration and cholesterol saturation. Serum nicotine concentrations (ng/mL) were (± SE) 0.4±0.1, 3.5±0.4, 8.8±0.8 and 16.2±1.8 in the controls and three treatment groups, respectively. Total bile acid concentration increased significantly in all three treated groups with the greatest increase in the group given low dose nicotine (P<0.001). Cholesterol saturation did not differ significantly in any group but soluble mucin concentration in gallbladder bile was significantly reduced (P=0.013, 95% CI: 16 to 111) with high dose nicotine. Gallbladder mucin synthesis, measured by 3H-glucosamine incorporation, did not change significantly with nicotine treatment. Subcutaneous nicotine 2.0 mg/kg/day for 14 days significantly reduced the concentration of biliary mucin, which could potentially reduce cholesterol nucleation and subsequent gallstone formation. This may be one of the mechanisms responsible for the relative reduction in gallstone disease among smokers.