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Clin Chem Lab Med. 2012 Mar 24;50(9):1641-7. doi: 10.1515/cclm-2012-0056.

Determinants of the essential one-carbon metabolism metabolites, homocysteine, S-adenosylmethionine, S-adenosylhomocysteine and folate, in cerebrospinal fluid.

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Department of Clinical Chemistry, Metabolic Laboratory, VU University Medical Center, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.



Disturbances in the levels of one-carbon (1C) metabolism metabolites have been associated with a wide variety of neuropsychiatric diseases. Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) levels of homocysteine (Hcy) and the other 1C metabolites, nor their interrelatedness and putative determinants, have been studied extensively in a healthy population.


Plasma and CSF samples from 100 individuals free from neuropsychiatric diseases were analyzed (55 male, 45 female; age 50±17 years). In blood, we measured plasma Hcy, serum folate and serum vitamin B12. In CSF, we measured total Hcy, S-adenosylmethionine (SAM), S-adenosylhomocysteine (SAH) and 5-methyltetrahydrofolate (5-methylTHF). Highly selective analytical methods like liquid chromatography combined with either mass spectrometry or fluorescence detection were used.


CSF Hcy was inversely correlated with CSF 5-methylTHF and positively with plasma Hcy, independent of serum folate status. CSF SAH correlated with age, lower CSF 5-methylTHF and higher CSF Hcy. CSF 5-methylTHF showed independent negative correlations with age and positive correlations with serum folate. CSF SAM did not correlate with any of the 1C metabolites.


Aging is characterized by a reduction in CSF 5-methylTHF levels and increased CSF levels of the potentially neurotoxic transmethylation inhibitor SAH. CSF 5-methylTHF, which is itself determined in part by systemic folate status, is a powerful independent determinant of CSF levels of Hcy and SAH.

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