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J Lipids. 2011;2011:702853. doi: 10.1155/2011/702853. Epub 2011 Aug 1.

Homocysteine as a risk factor for atherosclerosis: is its conversion to s-adenosyl-L-homocysteine the key to deregulated lipid metabolism?

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Institute of Molecular Biosciences, University of Graz, Humboldtstrasse 50/II, 8010 Graz, Austria.


Homocysteine (Hcy) has been recognized for the past five decades as a risk factor for atherosclerosis. However, the role of Hcy in the pathological changes associated with atherosclerosis as well as the pathological mechanisms triggered by Hcy accumulation is poorly understood. Due to the reversal of the physiological direction of the reaction catalyzed by S-adenosyl-L-homocysteine hydrolase Hcy accumulation leads to the synthesis of S-adenosyl-L-homocysteine (AdoHcy). AdoHcy is a strong product inhibitor of S-adenosyl-L-methionine (AdoMet)-dependent methyltransferases, and to date more than 50 AdoMet-dependent methyltransferases that methylate a broad spectrum of cellular compounds including nucleic acids, proteins and lipids have been identified. Phospholipid methylation is the major consumer of AdoMet, both in mammals and in yeast. AdoHcy accumulation induced either by Hcy supplementation or due to S-adenosyl-L-homocysteine hydrolase deficiency results in inhibition of phospholipid methylation in yeast. Moreover, yeast cells accumulating AdoHcy also massively accumulate triacylglycerols (TAG). Similarly, Hcy supplementation was shown to lead to increased TAG and sterol synthesis as well as to the induction of the unfolded protein response (UPR) in mammalian cells. In this review a model of deregulation of lipid metabolism in response to accumulation of AdoHcy in Hcy-associated pathology is proposed.

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