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Metabolism. 2001 Sep;50(9):1014-8.

Blood S-adenosylmethionine concentrations and lymphocyte methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase activity in diabetes mellitus and diabetic nephropathy.

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Division of Molecular Epidemiology, National Center for Toxicological Research, FDA, Jefferson, AR, USA.


The erythrocyte concentrations of the body's chief physiologic methyl donor S-adenosylmethionine (SAM) and of its metabolite and inhibitor S-adenosylhomocysteine (SAH), the plasma concentrations of total homocysteine (tHcy), and the activity of N(5,10) methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR) in lymphocytes were determined in healthy subjects and patients with diabetes mellitus without complications and at various stages of diabetic nephropathy, categorized according to the degree of progression of the disease. These groups were as follows: 1, control; 2, diabetics with no complications; 3, patients with albuminuria; 4, patients with an elevated plasma creatinine; and 5, patients on dialysis. No parameter studied exhibited significant differences between the type 1 and the type 2 diabetics. In control subjects, the blood concentrations of SAM were proportional to the activity of MTHFR; in diabetics, it was not. Consistent with previous observations, progression of nephropathy was accompanied by increased concentrations of tHcy. Increased erythrocyte concentrations of SAH, decreased erythrocyte concentrations of SAM, SAM/SAH ratios, and lymphocyte MTHFR activity also accompanied disease progression. The blood concentrations of SAH paralleled those of tHcy, while the concentrations of SAM showed a bimodal relationship with those of tHcy. These results provide further evidence that alterations in the blood concentrations of SAM and related compounds are abnormal in patients with diabetes, particularly in those with nephropathy. The deficiency of SAM may lead to methyl deficiencies, which may contribute to the high morbidity and mortality in patients with diabetic nephropathy. We have also demonstrated a decrease in lymphocyte MTHFR activity in patients with advanced nephropathy, suggesting that hyperhomocysteinemia in these patients may be due to a generalized metabolic abnormality. Further studies are needed to determine the pathogenesis of these abnormalities and whether they are present in renal failure due to causes other than diabetes or whether they are specific to diabetic nephropathy.

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