The relationship between biliary lipids, cholesterol saturation index, nucleation time, and serum lipids was studied in a group of 45 gallstone patients (10 male, 35 female; age 50.1 +/- 14.5 years). Bile was obtained by direct fine-needle puncture of the gallbladder under local anesthesia and sonographic monitoring. No significant correlation between the serum lipids and either the cholesterol saturation index or total biliary cholesterol levels was observed. We found a positive correlation between the nucleation time and serum triglycerides content (r = 0.45, p = 0.0018) and a negative correlation between nucleation time and biliary cholesterol level (r = -0.38, p = 0.009). The fatty acids derived from the triglycerides are primarily resynthesized to phospholipids in the liver. When the supply of free fatty acids exhausts the metabolic capacity of the liver as, for example, in fat-rich diets, triglycerides accumulate in the liver cells and may possibly by excreted in the bile. Free fatty acids stimulate mucin hypersecretion in the gallbladder. This mucosal hypersecretion has been assigned a significant role in the formation of gallbladder stones. We also found a positive correlation between the total biliary bile acids and serum high density lipoprotein (HDL)-cholesterol in patients with a rapid nucleation time (r = 0.50, p = 0.0128). This supports the findings of other researchers, which suggests that HDL-cholesterol is devoted primarily to bile acid synthesis. In patients with a short nucleation time, the cholesterol saturation index, total lipid concentration, biliary cholesterol, mean age, and biliary bile acids were statistically different in comparison with patients with a prolonged nucleation time.