A phylogenetic survey of biliary lipids in vertebrates

Antonio Moschetta, Fang Xu, Lee R. Hagey, Gerard P. Van Berge-Henegouwen, Karel J. Van Erpecum, Jos F. Brouwers, Jonathan C. Cohen, Molly Bierman, Helen H. Hobbs, Joseph H. Steinbach, Alan F. Hofmann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

90 Scopus citations


Biliary lipids (bile salts, phospholipids, cholesterol, plant sterols) were determined in 89 vertebrate species (cartilaginous and bony fish, reptiles, birds, and mammals), and individual phospholipid classes were measured in 35 species. All samples contained conjugated bile salts (C27 bile alcohol sulfates and/or N-acyl amidates of C27 and/or C24 bile acids). Phospholipids were generally absent in the bile of cartilaginous fish and reptiles and were present in low amounts relative to bile salts in bony fish and most birds. In mammals, the phospholipid-bile salt ratio varied widely. The bile from species with low biliary phospholipid-bile salt ratios often contained a high proportion of sphingomyelin, confirmed by HPLC-MS. In species with a high phospholipid-bile salt ratio, the predominant biliary phospholipid was phosphatidylcholine (PC). The phospholipid-bile salt ratio correlated weakly with the calculated weighted hydrophobic index value. Cholesterol was present in the bile of virtually all species, with plant sterols uniformly being present in only trace amounts. The cholesterol-bile salt ratio tended to be higher in mammals than in nonmammals, but bile of all species was unsaturated. Thus, most nonmammalian vertebrates have relatively low levels of biliary phospholipid and cholesterol, suggesting that cholesterol is eliminated predominantly as bile salts. Mammals have a higher phospholipid and cholesterol to bile salt ratio, with the dominant phospholipid being PC.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2221-2232
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of lipid research
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2005


  • Bile salts
  • Cholesterol
  • Gas chromatography
  • Mass spectrometry
  • Phosphatidylcholine
  • Sphingomyelin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Endocrinology
  • Cell Biology


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