Homocysteine (HCY), which is derived from the intracellular metabolism of methionine, is exported into plasma, where it circulates mostly in oxidized forms (i.e., homocystine and cysteine-HCY disulfide) and mainly bound to proteins. Concentrations of total HCY, or homocyst(e)ine [H(e)], are increased in 15-40% of patients with coronary, cerebral, or peripheral arterial diseases. Such association of H(e) with arterial occlusive diseases has been documented in retrospective, cross-sectional, and prospective studies. Concentrations of H(e) are also increased in subjects having thickened carotid arteries, as determined by ultrasonography, and who are asymptomatic for atherosclerosis. Statistical analyses of data from several series of patients demonstrate that H(e) concentrations are associated with coronary artery disease, independently from most other risk factors for atherosclerosis. The increased concentrations of H(e) are readily corrected by folic acid, occasionally supplemented with pyridoxine, vitamin B12, choline, or betaine. Whether these supplements affect the evolution of atherosclerotic disease needs to be established by prospective, placebo-controlled clinical trials.
- © 1995 The American Association for Clinical Chemistry