1. A system for separation of bile pigments by t.l.c. and for their structure elucidation is presented. Separated bile pigments are characterized by t.l.c. of derived dipyrrolic azopigments. 2. At the tetrapyrrolic stage hydrolysis in strongly alkaline medium followed by t.l.c. demonstrates the presence of bilirubin-IIIalpha, -IXalpha and -XIIIalpha and allows assessment of their relative amounts. 3. Most structural information is derived from analysis of dipyrrolic azopigments. Such derivatives, obtained by treatment of separated bile pigments with diazotized ethyl anthranilate, were separated and purified by t.l.c. Micro methods showed (a) the nature of the dipyrrolic aglycone, (b) the nature of the bonds connecting aglycone to a conjugating group, (c) the ratio of vinyl/isovinyl isomers present in the aglycone and, (d) the nature of the conjugating groups (by suitable derivative formation and t.l.c. with reference to known compounds). 4. In bile of normal dogs at least 20 tetrapyrrolic, diazo-positive bile pigments could be recognized. Except for two pigments the tetrapyrrolic nucleus corresponded predominantly to bilirubin-IXalpha. All conjugated pigments had their conjugating groups connected in ester linkage to the tetrapyrrolic aglycone, Apart from bilirubin-IXalpha, monoconjugates and homogeneous and mixed diconjugates of bilirubin were demonstrated; conjugating groups of major importance were xylose, glucose and glucuronic acid. 5. Bilirubin isomer determination on native bile and isolated bile pigments, and dipyrrole-exchange assays with [14C8]bilirubin indicated (a) that the conjugates pre-exist in bile, and (b) that no significant dipyrrole exchange occurs during isolation of the pigments.

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