Send to

Choose Destination
J Physiol Pharmacol. 2008 Dec;59 Suppl 9:155-67.

The pathophysiological hypothesis of homocysteine thiolactone-mediated vascular disease.

Author information

Department of Microbiology & Molecular Genetics, UMDNJ-New Jersey Medical School, International Center for Public Health, Newark, NJ 07101, USA.


Accumulating evidence suggests that homocysteine (Hcy) metabolite, the thioester Hcy-thiolactone, plays an important role in atherothrombosis. Hcy-thiolactone is a product of an error-editing reaction in protein biosynthesis which forms when Hcy is mistakenly selected by methionyl-tRNA synthetase. The thioester chemistry of Hcy-thiolactone underlies its ability to from isopeptide bonds with protein lysine residues, which impairs or alters protein's function. Protein targets for the modification by Hcy-thiolactone include fibrinogen, low-density lipoprotein, high-density lipoprotein, albumin, hemoglobin, and ferritin. Pathophysiological consequences of protein N-homocysteinylation include protein and cell damage, activation of an adaptive immune response and synthesis of auto-antibodies against N-Hcy-proteins, and enhanced thrombosis caused by N-Hcy-fibrinogen. Recent development of highly sensitive chemical and immunohistochemical assays has allowed verification of the hypothesis that the Hcy-thiolactone pathway contributes to pathophysiology of the vascular system, in particular of the prediction that conditions predisposing to atherosclerosis, such as genetic or dietary hyperhomocysteinemia, lead to elevation of Hcy-thiolactone and N-Hcy-protein. This prediction has been confirmed in vivo both in humans and in mice. For example, plasma Hcy-thiolactone was found to be elevated 59-72-fold in human patients with hyperhomocysteinemia secondary to mutations in methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR) or cystathionine beta-synthase (CBS) genes. Plasma N-Hcy-protein levels are elevated 24-30-fold in MTHFR- or CBS-deficiency, both in human patients and in mice. Plasma and urinary Hcy-thiolactone and plasma N-Hcy-protein levels are also elevated up to 30-fold in mice fed a hyperhomocysteinemic (1.5% methionine) diet. Furthermore, plasma levels of prothromobogenic N-Hcy-fibrinogen were elevated in human CBS deficiency, which explains increased atherothrombosis observed in CBS-deficient patients. We also observed increased immunohistochemical staining for N-Hcy-protein in aortic lesions from ApoE-deficient mice with hyperhomocysteinemia induced by a high methionine diet, relative to the mice fed a normal chow diet. We conclude that genetic or dietary hyperhomocysteinemia significantly elevates proatherothrombotic metabolites Hcy-thiolactone and N-Hcy-proteins in humans and mice.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Loading ...
Support Center