Sulfur amino acid metabolism: pathways for production and removal of homocysteine and cysteine

Annu Rev Nutr. 2004;24:539-77. doi: 10.1146/annurev.nutr.24.012003.132418.


Tissue concentrations of both homocysteine (Hcy) and cysteine (Cys) are maintained at low levels by regulated production and efficient removal of these thiols. The regulation of the metabolism of methionine and Cys is discussed from the standpoint of maintaining low levels of Hcy and Cys while, at the same time, ensuring an adequate supply of these thiols for their essential functions. S-Adenosylmethionine coordinately regulates the flux through remethylation and transsulfuration, and glycine N-methyltransferase regulates flux through transmethylation and hence the S-adenosylmethionine/S-adenosylhomocysteine ratio. Cystathionine beta-synthase activity is also regulated in response to the redox environment, and transcription of the gene is hormonally regulated in response to fuel supply (insulin, glucagon, and glucocorticoids). The H2S-producing capacity of cystathionine gamma-lyase may be regulated in response to nitric oxide. Cys is substrate for a variety of anabolic and catabolic enzymes. Its concentration is regulated primarily by hepatic Cys dioxygenase; the level of Cys dioxygenase is upregulated in a Cys-responsive manner via a decrease in the rate of polyubiquitination and, hence, degradation by the 26S proteasome.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acids, Sulfur / metabolism*
  • Cysteine / metabolism*
  • Homocysteine / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Liver / enzymology
  • Liver / metabolism
  • Oxidation-Reduction


  • Amino Acids, Sulfur
  • Homocysteine
  • Cysteine