Methionine transmethylation and transsulfuration in the piglet gastrointestinal tract

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2007 Feb 27;104(9):3408-13. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0607965104. Epub 2007 Feb 21.


Methionine is an indispensable sulfur amino acid that functions as a key precursor for the synthesis of homocysteine and cysteine. Studies in adult humans suggest that splanchnic tissues convert dietary methionine to homocysteine and cysteine by means of transmethylation and transsulfuration, respectively. Studies in piglets show that significant metabolism of dietary indispensable amino acids occurs in the gastrointestinal tissues (GIT), yet the metabolic fate of methionine in GIT is unknown. We show here that 20% of the dietary methionine intake is metabolized by the GIT in piglets implanted with portal and arterial catheters and fed milk formula. Based on analyses from intraduodenal and intravenous infusions of [1-(13)C]methionine and [(2)H(3)]methionine, we found that the whole-body methionine transmethylation and remethylation rates were significantly higher during duodenal than intravenous tracer infusion. First-pass splanchnic metabolism accounted for 18% and 43% of the whole-body transmethylation and remethylation, respectively. Significant transmethylation and transsulfuration was demonstrated in the GIT, representing approximately 27% and approximately 23% of whole-body fluxes, respectively. The methionine used by the GIT was metabolized into homocysteine (31%), CO(2) (40%), or tissue protein (29%). Cystathionine beta-synthase mRNA and activity was present in multiple GITs, including intestinal epithelial cells, but was significantly lower than liver. We conclude that the GIT consumes 20% of the dietary methionine and is a significant site of net homocysteine production. Moreover, the GITs represent a significant site of whole-body transmethylation and transsulfuration, and these two pathways account for a majority of methionine used by the GITs.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Carbon Isotopes
  • Cystathionine beta-Synthase / metabolism
  • DNA Primers
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / metabolism*
  • Homocysteine / biosynthesis
  • Methionine / metabolism*
  • Methylation
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Statistics, Nonparametric
  • Sulfur Compounds / metabolism
  • Sus scrofa
  • Tritium


  • Carbon Isotopes
  • DNA Primers
  • Sulfur Compounds
  • Homocysteine
  • Tritium
  • Methionine
  • Cystathionine beta-Synthase