Homocysteine, an atherogenic amino acid, is either remethylated to methionine or metabolized to cysteine by the transsulfuration pathway. The biochemical conversion of homocysteine to cysteine is dependent upon two consecutive, vitamin B-6-dependent reactions.
To study the effect of a selective vitamin B-6 deficiency on transsulfuration, we performed oral methionine load tests on 22 vitamin B-6-deficient asthma patients treated with theophylline (a vitamin B-6 antagonist) and 24 age- and sex-matched controls with a normal vitamin B-6 status. Both groups had normal circulating vitamin B-12 and folate concentrations. Methionine loading resulted in significantly higher increases in circulating total homocyst(e)ine (P < 0.01) and cystathionine (P < 0.05) concentrations in vitamin B-6-deficient patients compared with controls. 6 wk of vitamin B-6 supplementation (20 mg/d) significantly (P < 0.05) reduced post-methionine load increases in circulating total homocyst(e)ine concentrations in deficient subjects, but had no significant effect on the increase in total homocyst(e)ine concentrations in controls. The increases in post-methionine load circulating cystathionine concentrations were significantly (P < 0.01) reduced in both groups after vitamin supplementation.
It is concluded that a vitamin B-6 deficiency may contribute to impaired transsulfuration and an abnormal methionine load test, which is associated with premature vascular disease. (J. Clin. Invest. 1996. 98:177-184.)