Endurance exercise training reduces gallstone development in mice

Kenneth R. Wilund, Laura A. Feeney, Emily J. Tomayko, Hae R. Chung, Kijin Kim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Gallstones form when the ratio of bile cholesterol to bile acids and phospholipids is elevated, causing cholesterol to precipitate. Physical inactivity is hypothesized to increase gallstone development, but experimental evidence supporting this is lacking, and potential mechanisms for the antilithogenic effects of exercise have not been described. The purpose of this study was to examine the effect of endurance exercise training on gallstone formation and the expression of genes involved in bile cholesterol metabolism in gallstone-sensitive (C57L/J) mice. At 10 wk, 50 male mice began a lithogenic diet and were randomly assigned to an exercise-training (EX) or sedentary (SED) group (n = 25 per group). Mice in the EX group ran on a treadmill at ∼15 m/min for 45 min/day for 12 wk. At the time animals were euthanized, gallstones were collected, pooled by group, and weighed. The weight of the gallstones was 2.5-fold greater in the SED mice compared with EX mice (143 vs. 57 mg, respectively). In the EX mice, hepatic expression of the low-density lipoprotein receptor (LDLr), scavenger receptor class B type 1 (SRB1), and sterol 27 hydroxylase (Cyp27) was increased by ∼2-fold (P < 0.05 for each). The LDLr and SRB1 increase cholesterol clearance by low-density lipoprotein and high-density lipoprotein particles, respectively, while Cyp27 promotes the catabolism of cholesterol to bile acids. Taken together, these data indicate that exercise promotes changes in hepatic gene expression that increase cholesterol uptake by the liver but simultaneously increase the catabolism of cholesterol to bile acids, effectively reducing cholesterol saturation in the bile. This suggests a mechanism by which exercise improves cholesterol clearance from the circulation while simultaneously inhibiting gallstone formation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)761-765
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Applied Physiology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2008


  • Bile
  • Cholesterol
  • Physical activity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)


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