The relative contribution of genetic factors to biliary and serum lipid composition was studied in 17 monozygotic and 18 dizygotic middle aged male pairs of twins. Cholesterol precursors, squalene and Methylated sterols which reflect the activity of cholesterol synthesis were also measured. Pairwise intraclass correlations were determined for monozygotic and dizygotic twin pairs and heritability estimates were calculated. Molar % of biliary cholesterol and percentage distribution of biliary cholic acid and particularly deoxycholic acid showed significant pairwise correlations within the monozygotic but not the dizygotic pairs. Similar correlations were found for total biliary methylsterols and of the methylsterol subfractions for the two methostenols but not for squalene, lanosterol and dimethylsterols. In serum, the precursor sterols, but not squalene, showed even higher pairwise correlations in the monozygotic twins than the corresponding precursors in bile. Molar per cent of bile acids and phospholipids and cholesterol saturation index were not correlated significantly in either twin pairs, but the pairwise correlations tended to be higher in the monozygotic than in the dizygotic pairs. Gall stones were found in seven monozygotic and three dizygotic subjects. Two monozygotic twin pairs were concordant for gall stones; all the dizygotic pairs were discordant. Overall, these data suggest that molar percentage of biliary cholesterol, bile acid composition, cholesterol synthesis, bile cholesterol saturation, and gall stone formation may be under a significant genetic control.
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