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Anesthesiology. 1994 May;80(5):1046-56.

Preoperative methionine loading enhances restoration of the cobalamin-dependent enzyme methionine synthase after nitrous oxide anesthesia.

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Department of Clinical Biology, Bergen, Norway.



Prolonged exposure to nitrous oxide causes adverse effects mimicking those of cobalamin deficiency. This is explained by irreversible oxidation of cobalamin bound to the enzyme methionine synthase. The inactivation of methionine synthase by nitrous oxide in cultured human fibroblasts is decreased at high concentrations of methionine in culture medium.


We investigated the possible protection against cobalamin inactivation by preoperative methionine loading in patients undergoing nitrous oxide anesthesia. Fourteen patients receiving anesthesia for 75-230 min were included. Half of these patients received a peroral methionine loading dose 2 h before anesthesia.


After nitrous oxide exposure, a considerable inactivation of methionine synthase in mononuclear white blood cells was seen in all patients, reaching a nadir after 5-48 h. In the patients not subjected to a methionine load, recovery of enzyme activity was not complete within 7 days. In the patients receiving a methionine load, the kinetics of inactivation of methionine synthase were similar, but the rate and extent of enzyme recovery was higher than in patients not receiving methionine, and in four patients, the enzyme activity even exceeded the preoperative level. The inactivation of methionine synthase was associated with a transient increase in plasma homocysteine, and the homocysteine concentration was still increased (mean 28.7%) 7 days after anesthesia in the patients not receiving methionine. A marked peak in homocysteine concentration was observed immediately after anesthesia in the methionine-loaded patients, but the homocysteine level was still increased (mean of 30.5%) after 7 days. The activity of the other cobalamin-dependent enzyme, methylmalonyl coenzyme A mutase, in the mononuclear white blood cells, and the serum concentration of the cobalamin marker methylmalonic acid, were not altered after nitrous oxide anesthesia or methionine loading or both.


Our data suggest that short time exposure to nitrous oxide selectively impairs the function of the cobalamin-dependent methionine synthase. Furthermore, preoperative administration of methionine should be considered as a means to counteract adverse effects of nitrous oxide.

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