The fasting output of bile into the bowel was investigated in nine healthy volunteers by hepatobiliary scanning. Subjects were studied twice, on each occasion for 2.5 hours. A significant flow of radioactivity from the gall bladder to the duodenum was observed on one or two occasions during each experiment. A 32 +/- 4% mean decrease in counts over the gall bladder was recorded, indicating partial emptying of this organ in the interdigestive state. The output of bile into the bowel was found to be related to fluctuations in fasting plasma motilin levels in that a significant motilin increment (18 +/- 4 pmol/l, p less than 0.005) paralleled the appearance of radioactivity in the duodenum. The onset of gall-bladder emptying regularly preceded the peak in plasma motilin (mean: 25 +/- 2 minutes). Atropine, intravenously, 0.6 mg followed by 0.3 mg, nearly abolished both fasting biliary output and plasma motilin fluctuations. Thus, bile output appears to occur frequently in fasting humans, but our data do not allow any conclusions as to the possible causal relationship between fasting gall-bladder emptying and release of motilin. Cholinergic influences appear to be of importance in the regulation of interdigestive biliary output in man.
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