The molecular basis of homocysteine thiolactone-mediated vascular disease

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Accumulating evidence suggests that a metabolite of homocysteine (Hcy), the thioester Hcy-thiolactone, plays an important role in atherogenesis and thrombosis. Hcy-thiolactone levels are elevated in hyperhomocysteinemic humans and mice. The thioester chemistry of Hcy-thiolactone underlies its ability to form isopeptide bonds with protein lysine residues, which impairs or alters the protein's function. Protein targets for the modification by Hcy-thiolactone in human blood include fibrinogen, low-density lipoprotein, and high-density lipoprotein. Protein N-homocysteinylation leads to pathophysiological responses, including increased susceptibility to thrombogenesis caused by N-Hcy-fibrinogen, and an autoimmune response elicited by N-Hcy-proteins. Chronic activation of these responses in hyperhomocysteinemia over many years could lead to vascular disease. This article reviews recent evidence supporting the hypothesis that Hcy-thiolactone contributes to pathophysiological effects of Hcy on the vascular system.

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