A high prevalence of hyperhomocysteinemia has been reported in type II diabetic patients with documented vascular disease; hence the hypothesis that hyperhomocysteinemia may contribute to overall mortality in diabetic patients. The link between insulin and homocysteine metabolism has not been completely clarified yet; in particular, only few data are available on the effects of insulin in vivo on homocysteine metabolism in the presence of abnormalities of sulphur amino acid metabolism (methionine intolerance).
To establish whether methionine intolerance and which of its determinants could influence total plasma homocysteine in response to insulin infusion in vivo in type II diabetic patients, we submitted 18 patients (Group A) with normal and 18 patients with abnormal (hyperhomocysteinemia) (Group B) response to oral methionine load to a glucose/clamp study. At time 0, and 30, 60 and 120 minutes after hyperinsulinemia, homocysteine and methionine plasma levels were assessed. In order to evaluate the cause of methionine intolerance, all patients were assayed for fasting homocysteine-cysteine ratio (as a marker of suspected heterozygosis for cystathionine-beta-synthase deficit), MTHFR C (677)T status and homocysteine-related vitamin status (serum vitamin B (6) [PLP], vitamin B (12) and folate).
After hyperinsulinemia, plasma methionine was reduced (by about - 30 % at 120 minutes vs. basal values) within both groups, whereas tHcy tend to decrease in group A following insulin administration (up to - 6.6 +/- 3.6 % vs. basal values at 120 minutes) with a significantly higher variability, while in patients with "methionine intolerance" (group B) tHcy tended to increase (up to + 29.05 +/- 8.3 % vs. basal values at 120 min from the clamp). Serum folic acid (7.45 +/- 2.8 vs. 4.82 +/- 2.5 nmol/L, p < 0.05), Vit. B (12) (348 +/- 78 vs. 242 +/- 65 pmol/L, p < 0.05) and PLP (84.1 +/- 23.6 vs. 50.6 +/- 32.4 nmol/L; p < 0.01) were significantly higher in group A than in group B; PLP levels significantly correlated with homocysteine after 4 h methionine load (n = 36; r = - 0.327, p < 0.05); group A showed also a significantly lower prevalence of suspected heterozygosis for cystathionine-beta-synthase deficit (1/18 [11.1 %] vs. 5/18 [33.3 %], p < 0.05) and MTHFR T allele presence (4/18 [22.2 %] vs. 11/18 [61.1 %], p < 0.01). A stepwise regression analysis with tHcy plasma level variations (event A = reduction; event B = increase) as the dependent variable showed that low serum folate and PLP levels and presence of MTHFR T allele were the variables associated with insulin-induced tHcy increase.
Methionine intolerance may influence the effect of insulin administration on plasma homocysteine in patients affected by type 2 diabetes. To prevent a possible acute (and repeated) hyperhomocysteinemia due to insulin administration in cases of methionine intolerance, it may be useful to assess the presence of methionine intolerance (tHcy after oral methionine loading) and Hcy-related vitamin status in all patients due to be subjected to insulin therapy.