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Comparisons of l-cysteine and d-cysteine toxicity in 4-week repeated-dose toxicity studies of rats receiving daily oral administration

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      Two 4-week repeated-dose toxicity studies were conducted to evaluate the potential toxicity of l-cysteine and d-cysteine. In one study, three groups of 6 male rats were each administered l-cysteine once daily by gavage at doses of 500, 1,000, or 2,000 mg/kg/day for 28 consecutive days. The control group was administered a 0.5% methylcellulose vehicle solution. The other study followed a similar protocol except that the experimental groups received d-cysteine. Toxicological observations showed that the l-cysteine-treated groups exhibited renal injuries such as basophilic tubules with eosinophilic material in the lumen, and there were increased numbers of basophilic tubules in all treated groups. In 1,000 or 2,000 mg/kg/day-treated groups, salivation and necropsy findings indicative of focal erosion in the stomach mucosa were found. Increases in reticulocyte counts were observed in the 2,000 mg/kg/day-treated group. Toxicological findings obtained for the d-cysteine-treated groups included anemia and renal injuries such as basophilic tubules with eosinophilic material in the lumen, increased numbers of basophilic tubules, and crystal deposition in the medulla in the 2,000 mg/kg/day-treated group. Additional findings included sperm granuloma in the epididymis, necropsy findings suggestive of focal erosion in the stomach mucosa, and salivation in the 1,000 or 2,000 mg/kg/day-treated groups. One rat in the 2,000 mg/kg/day-treated group died due to renal failure. In conclusion, the no-observe d-adverse-effect levels (NOAELs) were estimated to be less than 500 mg/kg/day for l-cysteine and 500 mg/kg/day for d-cysteine under our study conditions. The toxicological profiles were similar for l-cysteine and d-cysteine; however, there were slight differences in the dose responses. The mechanisms underlying these differences remain to be determined.

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      Most cited references 29

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        A novel pathway for the production of hydrogen sulfide from D-cysteine in mammalian cells.

        In eukaryotes, hydrogen sulphide acts as a signalling molecule and cytoprotectant. Hydrogen sulphide is known to be produced from L-cysteine by cystathionine β-synthase, cystathionine γ-lyase and 3-mercaptopyruvate sulfurtransferase coupled with cysteine aminotransferase. Here we report an additional biosynthetic pathway for the production of hydrogen sulphide from D-cysteine involving 3-mercaptopyruvate sulfurtransferase and D-amino acid oxidase. Unlike the L-cysteine pathway, this D-cysteine-dependent pathway operates predominantly in the cerebellum and the kidney. Our study reveals that administration of D-cysteine protects primary cultures of cerebellar neurons from oxidative stress induced by hydrogen peroxide and attenuates ischaemia-reperfusion injury in the kidney more than L-cysteine. This study presents a novel pathway of hydrogen sulphide production and provides a new therapeutic approach to deliver hydrogen sulphide to specific tissues.
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          Metabolism of sulfur-containing amino acids.

          Met metabolism occurs primarily by activation of Met to AdoMet and further metabolism of AdoMet by either the transmethylation-transsulfuration pathway or the polyamine biosynthetic pathway. The catabolism of the methyl group and sulfur atom of Met ultimately appears to be dependent upon the transmethylation-transsulfuration pathway because the MTA formed as the co-product of polyamine synthesis is efficiently recycled to Met. On the other hand, the fate of the four-carbon chain of Met appears to depend upon the initial fate of the Met molecule. During transsulfuration, the carbon chain is released as alpha-ketobutyrate, which is further metabolized to CO2. In the polyamine pathway, the carboxyl carbon of Met is lost in the formation of dAdoMet, whereas the other three carbons are ultimately excreted as polyamine derivatives and degradation products. The role of the transamination pathway of Met metabolism is not firmly established. Cys (which may be formed from the sulfur of Met and the carbons of serine via the transsulfuration pathway) appears to be converted to taurine and CO2 primarily by the cysteinesulfinate pathway, and to sulfate and pyruvate primarily by desulfuration pathways in which a reduced form of sulfur with a relatively long biological half-life appears to be an intermediate. With the exception of the nitrogen of Met that is incorporated into polyamines, the nitrogen of Met or Cys is incorporated into urea after it is released as ammonium [in the reactions catalyzed by cystathionase with either cystathionine (from Met) or cystine (from Cys) as substrate] or it is transferred to a keto acid (in Cys or Met transamination). Many areas of sulfur-containing amino acid metabolism need further study. The magnitude of AdoMet flux through the polyamine pathway in the intact animal as well as details about the reactions involved in this pathway remain to be determined. Both the pathways and the possible physiological role of alternate (AdoMet-independent) Met metabolism, including the transamination pathway, must be elucidated. Despite the growing interest in taurine, investigation of Cys metabolism has been a relatively inactive area during the past two decades. Apparent discrepancies in the reported data on Cys metabolism need to be resolved. Future work should consider the role of extrahepatic tissues in amino acid metabolism as well as species differences in the relative roles of various pathways in the metabolism of Met and Cys.

            Author and article information

            [1 ]Safety Evaluation Research Group, Fundamental Technology Labs., Institute for Innovation, Ajinomoto Co., Inc., 1-1 Suzuki-cho, Kawasaki-ku, Kawasaki-shi, Kanagawa 210-8681, Japan
            Author notes
            *Correspondence author: Y Shibui (e-mail: yusuke_shibui@ )
            J Toxicol Pathol
            J Toxicol Pathol
            Journal of Toxicologic Pathology
            Japanese Society of Toxicologic Pathology
            22 April 2017
            July 2017
            : 30
            : 3
            : 217-229
            5545674 2017-0002 10.1293/tox.2017-0002
            ©2017 The Japanese Society of Toxicologic Pathology

            This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial No Derivatives (by-nc-nd) License. (CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0: ).

            Original Article


            rat, toxicity, amino acid, d-cysteine, l-cysteine


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