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Dig Dis Sci. 2003 Oct;48(10):2083-90.

Homocysteine, cysteine, and glutathione in human colonic mucosa: elevated levels of homocysteine in patients with inflammatory bowel disease.

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  • 1Institute of Clinical Pharmacology, Medical Faculty, Technical University Dresden, Dresden, Germany.


The present study was performed to evaluate the levels of the amino thiols cysteine, homocysteine, and glutathione in the colonic mucosa of patients with various intestinal diseases, especially chronic inflammatory bowel disease. Colonic biopsies of macroscopically normal mucosa out of a proximal and distal segment were collected from 187 patients with various intestinal diseases. Protein was assayed in duplicate by the method of Lowry et al (1951), using bovine serum albumin as standard. Total glutathione, cysteine, and homocysteine were quantified by high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) with fluorescent detection. Only in patients with inflammatory bowel disease were the homocysteine levels in the large bowel mucosa significantly elevated compared with the concentrations in patients with normal mucosa. No significant differences were seen for glutathione and cysteine concentrations in colonic mucosa among the different groups of diseases. No correlation was found between the age of the patients and levels of the amino thiols investigated. GSH content and concentrations of cysteine and homocysteine were similar in male and female subjects. In our study markedly elevated concentrations of homocysteine in the colonic mucosa were observed in patients suffering from ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease. This finding has been reported already in the literature for plasma homocysteine levels. Increased homocysteine levels in the colonic mucosa and plasma of patients with inflammatory bowel disease may play a role in the pathogenesis of Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis.

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