[Hyperhomocysteinemia: atherothrombosis and neurotoxicity].Acta Physiol Pharmacol Ther Latinoam 1999; 49(1):21-30AP
The positive correlation existing between hyperhomocyst(e)inemia [HH(e)] and vascular disease has firmly been established through data derived from numerous epidemiological and experimental observations. Clinical data corroborate that homocysteine (Hcy) is an independent risk factor for coronary, cerebral and peripheral arterial occlusive disease or peripheral venous thrombosis. Hcy is a sulfhydryl-containing amino acid that is formed by the demethylation of methionine. It is normally catalyzed to cystathionine by cystathionine beta-synthase a pyridoxal phosphate-dependent enzyme. Hcy is also remethylated to methionine by 5-methyltetrahydrofolate-Hcy methyltransferase (methionine synthase), a vitamin B12 dependent enzyme and by betaine-Hcy methyltransferase. Nutritional status such as vitamin B12, or vitamin B6, or folate deficiencies and genetic defects such as cystathionine beta-synthase or methylene-tetrahydrofolate reductase may contribute to increasing plasma homocysteine levels. The pathogenesis of Hcy-induced vascular damage may be multifactorial, including direct Hcy damage to the endothelium, stimulation of proliferation of smooth muscle cells, enhanced low-density lipoprotein peroxidation, increase of platelet aggregation, and effects on the coagulation system. Besides adverse effects on the endothelium and vessel wall, Hcy exert a toxic action on neuronal cells trough the stimulation of N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptors. Under these conditions, neuronal damage derives from excessive calcium influx and reactive oxygen generation. This mechanism may contribute to the cognitive changes and markedly increased risk of cerebrovascular disease in children and young adults with homocystunuria. Moreover, during stroke, in hiperhomocysteinemic patients, disruption of the blood-brain barrier results in exposure of the brain to near plasma levels of Hcy. The brain is exposed to 15-50 microM H(e). Thus, the neurotoxicity of Hcy acting through the overstimulation of NMDA receptors could contribute to neuronal damage in homocystinuria and HH(e). Since HH(e) is associated with certain neurodegeneratives diseases, in the present review, the molecular mechanisms involved in neurotoxicity due to Hcy are discussed.