1. Bile salts stimulate mucin secretion by the gallbladder epithelium. We have investigated whether this stimulatory effect is due to a detergent effect of bile salts. 2. The bile salts taurocholic acid (TC) and tauroursodeoxycholic acid (TUDC) and the detergents Triton X-100 (12.5–400 µM) and Tween-20 (0.1–3.2 mM) were applied to monolayers of cultured dog gallbladder epithelial cells. Mucin secretion was studied by measuring the secretion of [3H]N-acetyl-d-glucosamine-labelled glycoproteins. We also attempted to alter the fluidity of the apical membrane of the cells through extraction of cholesterol with β-cyclodextrin (2.5–15 mM). The effect on TUDC-induced mucin secretion was studied. Cell viability was assessed by measuring lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) leakage or 51Cr release. 3. In contrast with the bile salts, the detergents were not able to cause an increase in mucin secretion without causing concomitant cell lysis. Concentrations of detergent that increased mucin release (> 100 µM Triton X-100, > 0.8 mM Tween-20), caused increased LDH release. Incubation with β-cyclodextrin resulted in effective extraction of cholesterol without causing an increase in 51Cr release. However, no effect of the presumed altered membrane fluidity on TUDC (10 mM)-induced mucin secretion was observed. 4. The stimulatory effect of bile salts on mucin secretion by gallbladder epithelial cells is not affected by the fluidity of the apical membrane of the cells and also cannot be mimicked by other detergents. We conclude that the ability of bile salts to cause mucin secretion by the gallbladder epithelium is not determined by their detergent properties.

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