Folate deficiency, methionine metabolism, and alcoholic liver disease

Alcohol. 2002 Jul;27(3):169-72. doi: 10.1016/s0741-8329(02)00225-2.


Methionine metabolism is regulated by folate, and both folate deficiency and abnormal hepatic methionine metabolism are recognized features of alcoholic liver disease (ALD). Previously, histological features of ALD were induced in castrated male micropigs fed diets containing ethanol at 40% of kilocalories for 12 months, whereas in male micropigs fed the same diets for 12 months abnormal methionine metabolism and hepatocellular apoptosis developed. Folate deficiency may promote the development of ALD by accentuating abnormal methionine metabolism. Intact male micropigs received eucaloric diets that were folate sufficient, folate deficient, or each containing 40% of kilocalories as ethanol for 14 weeks. Folate deficiency alone reduced hepatic folates by one half, and ethanol feeding alone reduced methionine synthase, S-adenosylmethionine (SAM), and glutathione (GSH) levels and elevated plasma malondialdehyde (MDA) levels. The combined regimen elevated plasma homocysteine, hepatic S-adenosylhomocysteine (SAH), urinary 8-hydroxy-2-deoxyguanosine (oxy(8)dG), an index of DNA oxidation, and serum aspartate aminotransferase (AST) levels. Terminal hepatic histopathologic characteristics included typical features of steatonecrosis and focal inflammation in pigs fed the combined diet, with no changes in the other groups. Hepatic SAM levels correlated with those of GSH, whereas urinary oxy(8)dG and plasma MDA levels correlated with the SAM:SAH ratio and to hepatic GSH. The results demonstrate the linkage of abnormal methionine metabolism to products of DNA and lipid oxidation and to liver injury. The finding of steatonecrosis and focal inflammation only in the combined diet group supports the suggestion that folate deficiency promotes and folate sufficiency protects against the early onset of methionine cycle-mediated ALD.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Folic Acid Deficiency / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Liver Diseases, Alcoholic / metabolism*
  • Methionine / metabolism*
  • Swine, Miniature


  • Methionine