Acute effects of bile acids on the pancreatic duct epithelium in vitro

Carlos Alvarez, Alessio Fasano, Barbara L. Bass

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Background. Acute pancreatitis is associated with passage of gallstones, although the mechanism(s) linking the two processes remains undefined. Bile reflux into the pancreatic duct could play a role but the experimental conditions often employed to induce pancreatitis rarely develop clinically. Here we examined whether low concentrations of bile affect ductal electrophysiology as an indirect measure of ductal epithelial integrity and function in vitro. Methods. The main duct was dissected out of freshly harvested bovine pancreata, cut into 1- x 2-cm sections, placed in tissue culture for 48-72 h, then placed in Ussing chambers. Changes in tissue resistance (R(t)) and short-circuit current (I(sc)) were monitored. The responses to forskolin and bile (taurodeoxycholic acid, TDCA) were examined separately and together. Results. Forskolin (10 μM) produced a decrease in the I(SC) without a significant change in R(t), suggesting a secretory response, followed by a return to baseline. TDCA caused a similarly reversible decrease in the I(SC) at low doses, but a persistent drop at higher concentrations. A concurrent drop in R(t) was noted at all TDCA concentrations, the duration of which correlated with dosage and degree of histological damage. Prior exposure to low (0.5 mM) doses of TDCA significantly blunted the response to subsequent forskolin challenge. Conclusions. Acute exposure to TDCA in vitro causes epithelial damage at levels lower than those normally used to induce experimental pancreatitis. At the lower concentrations, R(t) returns to baseline rapidly, suggesting recovery (restitution) from epithelial damage but with a persistent loss of the response to forskolin. Reflux of minute amounts of bile into the pancreatic duct could play a significant role in the pathogenesis of gallstone pancreatitis by uncoupling the normal stimulus-secretion apparatus of the ductal system and breaking down the epithelial barrier.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)43-46
Number of pages4
JournalJournal of Surgical Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 1998


  • Bile acids
  • Cell culture
  • Epithelial cell
  • Pancreatic ducts

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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