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Role of the ABCG8 19H risk allele in cholesterol absorption and gallstone disease

Olga Renner1*, Dieter Lütjohann2, Dominique Richter1, André Strohmeyer1, Silke Schimmel1, Oliver Müller3, Eduard F Stange3* and Simone Harsch1

Author Affiliations

1 Dr. Margarete Fischer-Bosch Institute of Clinical Pharmacology and University of Tuebingen, 70376, Stuttgart, Germany

2 Institute for Clinical Chemistry and Clinical Pharmacology, Laboratory for Special Lipid Diagnostics, University of Bonn, Germany

3 Department of Gastroenterology, Robert Bosch Hospital, 70376, Stuttgart, Germany

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BMC Gastroenterology 2013, 13:30  doi:10.1186/1471-230X-13-30

Published: 13 February 2013



Gallstone disease is associated with p.D19H of ABCG8 as well as alterations of cholesterol and bile acid metabolism. However, molecular mechanisms have not been fully elucidated. It is important to understand the link between the sterol transporters ABCG5/8 and NPC1L1 and intestinal cholesterol absorption as well as de novo synthesis in gallstone patients stratified according to 19H risk allele. Moreover, the functional importance of the 19H variant on intestinal ABCG8 feature remains to be clarified.


Measurements of serum surrogate markers of cholesterol absorption (plant sterols: sitosterol, campesterol) and synthesis (cholesterol precursor: lathosterol) were carried out by gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (GC/MS). For expression studies, total RNA was isolated from 168 ileal biopsies of study participants with (34) and without gallstone disease (134). Messenger RNA was measured by LightCycler real-time PCR. Genomic DNA was obtained from blood leukocytes. Genotype frequencies of p.D19H were established using MALDI-TOF mass spectrometry.


Compared to controls, cholesterol absorption but not synthesis in gallstone carriers was diminished by about 21% based on low serum sitosterol (P = 0.0269) and campesterol (P = 0.0231) to cholesterol ratios. D19H was found to be significantly associated with gallstones (odds ratio [OR] = 2.9, P = 0.0220, 95% confidence interval [CI]:1.22-6.89), particularly in the overweight cohort (OR = 3.2, P = 0.0430, 95% CI:1.07-9.26). Cholesterol absorption was about 24% lower in individuals carrying p.D19H compared to wild type (Psitosterol = 0.0080, Pcampesterol = 0.0206). Moreover, irrespective of phenotype, carriers of p.D19H displayed a significant lower absorption than carriers of the major allele. The most pronounced effect on cholesterol absorption ratio was observed for serum campesterol levels (wild type controls to mutated controls 28%, P = 0.0347 and wild type controls to gallstone carriers with 19H allele 37%, P = 0.0030). Notably, ABCG5/8 and NPC1L1 expression was similar in gallstone carriers and controls regardless of p.D19H presence.


Both gallstone disease and p.D19H of ABCG8 are associated with diminished cholesterol absorption. However, p.D19H is not responsible for the differences in small intestinal sterol transporter expression.