Serum betaine, N,N-dimethylglycine and N-methylglycine levels in patients with cobalamin and folate deficiency and related inborn errors of metabolism.Metabolism. 1993 Nov; 42(11):1448-60.M
Homocysteine and 5-CH3-tetrahydrofolate (5-CH3-THF) are converted to methionine and THF by the CH3-cobalamin (CH3-Cbl)-dependent enzyme methionine synthase. Serum homocysteine levels are elevated in more than 95% of patients with Cbl or folate deficiency and in patients with inborn errors involving the synthesis of 5-CH3-THF or CH3-Cbl. Homocysteine and betaine are converted to methionine and N,N-dimethylglycine by betaine-homocysteine methyltransferase. It requires neither Cbl nor folate, although N,N-dimethylglycine is converted to N-methylglycine and then to glycine in reactions that both involve the formation of 5,10-CH2-THF from THF. Large amounts of betaine are often given orally to patients with inborn errors, even though little is known about its metabolism in normal subjects or these patients. Thus we developed new gas chromatographic-mass spectrometric assays for serum betaine, N,N-dimethylglycine, and N-methylglycine. In 60 blood donors, we found ranges for normal serum of 17.6 to 73.3, 1.42 to 5.27, and 0.60 to 2.67 mumol/L for the three metabolites, respectively, which were normal in the majority of 50 patients with Cbl deficiency, none of whom had increased levels of N-methylglycine. In 25 patients with folate deficiency, serum betaine level was normal in most, but 76% and 60% had elevations of N,N-dimethylglycine and N-methylglycine levels that ranged as high as 343 and 43.2 mumol/L, respectively. All of seven patients on betaine therapy for inborn errors had high values for betaine (167 to 3,900 mumol/L), N,N-dimethylglycine (15.1 to 250 mumol/L), and N-methylglycine (2.93 to 49.3 mumol/L). Serum total homocysteine levels remained very high at 47.2 to 156 mumol/L (normal, 5.4 to 16.2). In patients with cbl C and cbl D mutations, methionine levels remained low or low-normal at 8.3 to 15.6 mumol/L (normal, 13.3 to 42.7) despite betaine treatment. We conclude that (1) betaine levels are maintained in most patients with Cbl and folate deficiency; (2) levels of N,N-dimethylglycine and N-methylglycine are increased in most patients with folate deficiency; and (3) betaine therapy is relatively ineffective in patients with defective synthesis of CH3-Cbl.