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J Nutr. 2006 Jun;136(6 Suppl):1660S-1665S. doi: 10.1093/jn/136.6.1660S.

The effects of sulfur amino acid intake on immune function in humans.

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Institute of Human Nutrition, School of Medicine, University of Southampton, Southampton SO16 7PX, UK.


No direct data exist on the influence of supranormal intakes of sulfur amino acids on immune function in humans. However 3 major products of sulfur amino acids, glutathione (GSH), homocysteine (Hcy), and taurine (Tau), influence, mainly, inflammatory aspects of the immune response in vitro and in vivo. Methionine intakes above approximately 1 g/d transiently raise plasma Tau, Hcy, and GSH. Tau and GSH ameliorate inflammation. Hcy has the opposite effect. A biphasic relation, between cellular GSH and CD4+ and CD8+ numbers occurs in healthy men. How changes in sulfur amino acid intake influence this phenomenon is unknown. In animals, high Tau intakes are antiinflammatory. How immune function in humans is affected is unknown. A positive relation between plasma neopterin (a marker of a Th-1-type immune response) and Hcy indicates that Hcy may play a part in inflammatory aspects of Parkinson's disease and aging. In vitro, Hcy, at concentrations seen following consumption of approximately 6 g L-methionine/d in adults, increases the interactions among T lymphocytes, monocytes, and endothelium. Whether a similar phenomenon occurs in vivo is unknown. Polymorphisms in the methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase gene are associated with raised plasma Hcy in young but not old subjects. The relation of this observation to immune function is unknown. The relationships among Hcy, inflammatory aspects of disease, and in vitro alterations in immune cell behavior create a cautionary note about supplementation of diets with l-methionine to raise intake above approximately 1 g/d. Studies directly linking methionine intake, genetics, plasma Hcy, Tau, and GSH and immune function are needed.

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