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J Nutr. 2003 Nov;133(11):3392-8.

Retinoic acid and glucocorticoid treatment induce hepatic glycine N-methyltransferase and lower plasma homocysteine concentrations in rats and rat hepatoma cells.

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  • 1Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, Iowa State University, Ames, IA 50011, USA.


Perturbation of folate and methyl group metabolism is associated with a number of pathological conditions, including cardiovascular disease and neoplastic development. Glycine N-methyltransferase (GNMT) is a key protein that functions to regulate the supply and utilization of methyl groups for S-adenosylmethionine (SAM)-dependent transmethylation reactions. Factors or conditions that have the ability to regulate GNMT and the generation of homocysteine, a product of transmethylation, have important implications in the potential perturbation of methyl group metabolism. We showed that retinoid compounds induce active hepatic GNMT, resulting in compromised transmethylation processes. Because retinoids can stimulate gluconeogenesis, a condition known to alter methyl group and homocysteine metabolism, the current study was undertaken to determine the relationship between all-trans-retinoic acid (RA) and gluconeogenic hormones on these metabolic pathways. Intact adrenal function was not required for RA to induce and activate hepatic GNMT; however, treatment of rats with dexamethasone (DEX) was as effective as RA in inducing GNMT in rat liver. The marked increase in plasma total homocysteine levels observed in adrenalectomized rats was reduced to normal levels by treatment with either RA or DEX, indicating that the transsulfuration and/or remethylation pathways may be enhanced. Moreover, coadministration of RA and DEX had an additive effect on GNMT induction. Similar findings were also observed in a rat hepatoma cell culture model using H4IIE cells. Taken together, these results demonstrate that both RA and DEX independently induce GNMT, thereby having substantial implications for the potential interaction of retinoid administration with diabetes.

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