The B6 vitamers (pyridoxine, pyridoxamine, and pyridoxal) are primarily metabolized in liver to pyridoxal 5'-phosphate (PLP) and the deadend catabolite 4-pyridoxic acid. We have built on the elegant early work of Snell and others to describe the activities of the human liver enzymes responsible for vitamin B6 metabolism and to develop a model of the relative rates of these interconversions in vivo. This model is consistent with changes in plasma B6 after a load, the clearance of different vitamers (e.g., pyridoxine versus pyridoxal), and with the low plasma PLP in patients with cirrhosis. Because cirrhotics were found to be capable of PLP synthesis, we have used oral supplementation with pyridoxine to restore plasma PLP to the normal range, and have evaluated the effects of this intervention on amino acid metabolism. No significant differences were observed in plasma or urinary clearance of methionine (or cystathionine) after an oral load, nor in amino acid clearance from circulation after a protein load for cirrhotic patients before and after restoration of normal plasma PLP. Hence, the abnormal metabolism of vitamin B6 does not appear to be an important factor in the deranged amino acid metabolism in this disease. Nonetheless, this approach may be generally useful in assessing the importance of PLP in other abnormalities.