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The Effect of a Subnormal Vitamin B-6 Status on Homocysteine Metabolism.

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.)

Published on 08-28-2006