Int J Biochem Cell Biol. 2004 Nov;36(11):2125-30. doi: 10.1016/j.biocel.2003.11.016.


5'-Methylthioadenosine (MTA) is a naturally occurring sulfur-containing nucleoside present in all mammalian tissues. MTA is produced from S-adenosylmethionine mainly through the polyamine biosynthetic pathway, where it behaves as a powerful inhibitory product. This compound is metabolized solely by MTA-phosphorylase, to yield 5-methylthioribose-1-phosphate and adenine, a crucial step in the methionine and purine salvage pathways, respectively. Abundant evidence has accumulated over time suggesting that MTA can affect cellular processes in many ways. MTA has been shown to influence numerous critical responses of the cell including regulation of gene expression, proliferation, differentiation and apoptosis. Although most of these responses have been observed at the pharmacological level, their specificity makes it tempting to speculate that endogenous MTA could play a regulatory role in the cell. Finally, observations carried out in models of liver damage and cancer demonstrate a therapeutic potential for MTA that deserves further consideration.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adenine / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Apoptosis / drug effects
  • Cell Differentiation / drug effects*
  • Deoxyadenosines / pharmacology*
  • Gene Expression Regulation / drug effects*
  • Humans
  • Methionine / metabolism
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Purines / metabolism*
  • S-Adenosylhomocysteine / metabolism*
  • Thionucleosides / pharmacology*


  • Deoxyadenosines
  • Purines
  • Thionucleosides
  • 5'-methylthioadenosine
  • S-Adenosylhomocysteine
  • Methionine
  • Adenine