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Thromb Res. 2001 Nov 1;104(3):207-13.

Effects of homocysteine on proliferation, necrosis, and apoptosis of vascular smooth muscle cells in culture and influence of folic acid.

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  • 1Department of Internal Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, University of Messina, Via Salita Villa Contino, 30, 98100 Messina, Italy.



It is known that hyperhomocysteinemia is associated with an increased risk of vascular disease, yet little is known about the pathogenic mechanisms underlying the action of homocysteine (Hcy) itself.


We evaluated the effects of Hcy on cell proliferation, apoptosis, and necrosis in smooth muscle cells (SMCs) cultured for 24 h with different amounts of Hcy. The percentage of apoptotic and necrotic cells from the culture was evaluated using two different techniques: annexin V-FITC and propidium iodide (PI) fluorescence and apoptosis TUNEL assay.


The addition of 10 microM/l of Hcy to the medium was followed by a significant increase in cell proliferation and death, through apoptosis and necrosis, respectively. Notwithstanding this apparent balance, a significant increase was found in the total number of cells present in Hcy-treated culture, thus demonstrating a positive dose-dependent correlation with Hcy concentrations in the culture medium. The addition of folic acid to the culture medium significantly reduced both Hcy concentrations in media and the effects of Hcy on the proliferation/apoptosis/necrosis balance of cells in culture. The percentages for apoptotic cells and for cells with a necrotic morphology continued to increase as Hcy concentrations increased, although the absolute values were lower in the culture treated than in that not treated with folic acid.


In the presence of folic acid, at increasing concentrations of Hcy, the total number of cells in culture showed increases far less relevant with respect to the control. Also the percentage of apoptotic cells to that of cells with a necrotic morphology, although conserving the tendency to increase to growth of the concentrations of Hcy, have shown absolute values that were lower in the folic acid-treated cultures.

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