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      Daily rhythms in plasma levels of homocysteine

      , 1 , 1

      Journal of Circadian Rhythms

      BioMed Central

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          There is accumulated evidence that plasma concentration of the sulfur-containing amino-acid homocysteine (Hcy) is a prognostic marker for cardiovascular morbidity and mortality. Both fasting levels of Hcy and post methionine loading levels are used as prognostic markers. The aim of the present study was to investigate the existence of a daily rhythm in plasma Hcy under strictly controlled nutritional and sleep-wake conditions. We also investigated if the time during which methionine loading is performed, i.e., morning or evening, had a different effect on the resultant plasma Hcy concentration.


          Six healthy men aged 23–26 years participated in 4 experiments. In the first and second experiments, the daily rhythm in Hcy as well as in other amino acids was investigated under a normal or an inverse sleep-wake cycle. In the third and fourth, Hcy concentrations were investigated after a morning and evening methionine loading. To standardize food consumption in the first two experiments, subjects received every 3 hours 150 ml of specially designed low-protein liquid food (Ensure ® formula).


          In both the first and second experiments there was a significant daily rhythm in Hcy concentrations with a mid-day nadir and a nocturnal peak. Strikingly different 24-h patterns were observed in methionine, leucine, isoleucine and tyrosine. In all, the 24-h curves revealed a strong influence of both the sleep-wake cycle and the feeding schedule. Methionine loading resulted in increased plasma Hcy levels during both morning and evening experiments, which were not significantly different from each other.


          There is a daily rhythm in plasma concentration of the amino acid Hcy, and this rhythm is independent of sleep-wake and food consumption. In view of the fact that increased Hcy concentrations may be associated with increased cardiovascular risks, these findings may have clinical implications for the health of rotating shift workers.

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          Most cited references 22

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          Homocysteine metabolism.

           J Selhub (1998)
          Homocysteine is a sulfur amino acid whose metabolism stands at the intersection of two pathways: remethylation to methionine, which requires folate and vitamin B12 (or betaine in an alternative reaction); and transsulfuration to cystathionine, which requires pyridoxal-5'-phosphate. The two pathways are coordinated by S-adenosylmethionine, which acts as an allosteric inhibitor of the methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase reaction and as an activator of cystathionine beta-synthase. Hyperhomocysteinemia, a condition that recent epidemiological studies have shown to be associated with increased risk of vascular disease, arises from disrupted homocysteine metabolism. Severe hyperhomocysteinemia is due to rare genetic defects resulting in deficiencies in cystathionine beta synthase, methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase, or in enzymes involved in methyl-B12 synthesis and homocysteine methylation. Mild hyperhomocysteinemia seen in fasting conditions is due to mild impairment in the methylation pathway (i.e. folate or B12 deficiencies or methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase thermolability). Post-methionine-load hyperhomocysteinemia may be due to heterozygous cystathionine beta-synthase defect or B6 deficiency. Early studies with nonphysiological high homocysteine levels showed a variety of deleterious effects on endothelial or smooth muscle cells in culture. More recent studies with human beings and animals with mild hyperhomocysteinemia provided encouraging results in the attempt to understand the mechanism that underlies this relationship between mild elevations of plasma homocysteine and vascular disease. The studies with animal models indicated the possibility that the effect of elevated homocysteine is multifactorial, affecting both the vascular wall structure and the blood coagulation system.
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            Plasma homocysteine levels and mortality in patients with coronary artery disease.

            Elevated plasma homocysteine levels are a risk factor for coronary heart disease, but the prognostic value of homocysteine levels in patients with established coronary artery disease has not been defined. We prospectively investigated the relation between plasma total homocysteine levels and mortality among 587 patients with angiographically confirmed coronary artery disease. At the time of angiography in 1991 or 1992, risk factors for coronary disease, including homocysteine levels, were evaluated. The majority of the patients subsequently underwent coronary-artery bypass grafting (318 patients) or percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty (120 patients); the remaining 149 were treated medically. After a median follow-up of 4.6 years, 64 patients (10.9 percent) had died. We found a strong, graded relation between plasma homocysteine levels and overall mortality. After four years, 3.8 percent of patients with homocysteine levels below 9 micromol per liter had died, as compared with 24.7 percent of those with homocysteine levels of 15 micromol per liter or higher. Homocysteine levels were only weakly related to the extent of coronary artery disease but were strongly related to the history with respect to myocardial infarction, the left ventricular ejection fraction, and the serum creatinine level. The relation of homocysteine levels to mortality remained strong after adjustment for these and other potential confounders. In an analysis in which the patients with homocysteine levels below 9 micromol per liter were used as the reference group, the mortality ratios were 1.9 for patients with homocysteine levels of 9.0 to 14.9 micromol per liter, 2.8 for those with levels of 15.0 to 19.9 micromol per liter, and 4.5 for those with levels of 20.0 micromol per liter or higher (P for trend=0.02). When death due to cardiovascular disease (which occurred in 50 patients) was used as the end point in the analysis, the relation between homocysteine levels and mortality was slightly strengthened. Plasma total homocysteine levels are a strong predictor of mortality in patients with angiographically confirmed coronary artery disease.
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              Plasma homocysteine as a risk factor for vascular disease. The European Concerted Action Project.

              Elevated plasma homocysteine is a known risk factor for atherosclerotic vascular disease, but the strength of the relationship and the interaction of plasma homocysteine with other risk factors are unclear. To establish the magnitude of the vascular disease risk associated with an increased plasma homocysteine level and to examine interaction effects between elevated plasma homocysteine level and conventional risk factors. Case-control study. Nineteen centers in 9 European countries. A total of 750 cases of atherosclerotic vascular disease (cardiac, cerebral, and peripheral) and 800 controls of both sexes younger than 60 years. Plasma total homocysteine was measured while subjects were fasting and after a standardized methionine-loading test, which involves the administration of 100 mg of methionine per kilogram and stresses the metabolic pathway responsible for the irreversible degradation of homocysteine. Plasma cobalamin, pyridoxal 5'-phosphate, red blood cell folate, serum cholesterol, smoking, and blood pressure were also measured. The relative risk for vascular disease in the top fifth compared with the bottom four fifths of the control fasting total homocysteine distribution was 2.2 (95% confidence interval, 1.6-2.9). Methionine loading identified an additional 27% of at-risk cases. A dose-response effect was noted between total homocysteine level and risk. The risk was similar to and independent of that of other risk factors, but interaction effects were noted between homocysteine and these risk factors; for both sexes combined, an increased fasting homocysteine level showed a more than multiplicative effect on risk in smokers and in hypertensive subjects. Red blood cell folate, cobalamin, and pyridoxal phosphate, all of which modulate homocysteine metabolism, were inversely related to total homocysteine levels. Compared with nonusers of vitamin supplements, the small number of subjects taking such vitamins appeared to have a substantially lower risk of vascular disease, a proportion of which was attributable to lower plasma homocysteine levels. An increased plasma total homocysteine level confers an independent risk of vascular disease similar to that of smoking or hyperlipidemia. It powerfully increases the risk associated with smoking and hypertension. It is time to undertake randomized controlled trials of the effect of vitamins that reduce plasma homocysteine levels on vascular disease risk.

                Author and article information

                J Circadian Rhythms
                Journal of Circadian Rhythms
                BioMed Central (London )
                3 September 2004
                : 2
                : 5
                [1 ]Unit of Anatomy and Cell Biology, Bruce Rappaport Faculty of Medicine, Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, Haifa 31096, Israel
                Copyright © 2004 Lavie and Lavie; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.

                This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


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