The concentration of hexosamine, a marker for mucin, was determined and related to the degree of cholesterol saturation and to the occurrence of cholesterol crystals in gall bladder bile of gall stone patients (n = 40) and gall stone free subjects (n = 25). Ten of the gall stone patients had been treated with chenodeoxycholic acid (CDCA) and eight with ursodeoxycholic acid (UDCA) three to four weeks before cholecystectomy. The hexosamine content was significantly higher in gall stone patients (137 (19) ng/ml, mean (SE) than in gall stone free subjects (83 (9) ng/ml, p less than 0.02). Treatment with CDCA or UDCA decreased cholesterol saturation, but did not significantly affect the hexosamine concentration. There was no difference in hexosamine concentration between gall stone patients with and without cholesterol crystals. The results do not support the hypothesis that the degree of cholesterol saturation is important for the mucin content of gall bladder bile in man. Neither do the data indicate that the formation and occurrence of cholesterol crystals in gall bladder bile from gall stone patients is caused by an increased concentration of mucin. As the studies were conducted on patients who had already had gall stones for several years, however, an effect of mucin in the very early stage of gall stone formation cannot be completely excluded.
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