Asparagusic acid

Phytochemistry. 2014 Jan:97:5-10. doi: 10.1016/j.phytochem.2013.09.014. Epub 2013 Oct 4.


Asparagusic acid (1,2-dithiolane-4-carboxylic acid) is a simple sulphur-containing 5-membered heterocyclic compound that appears unique to asparagus, though other dithiolane derivatives have been identified in non-food species. This molecule, apparently innocuous toxicologically to man, is the most probable culprit responsible for the curious excretion of odorous urine following asparagus ingestion. The presence of the two adjacent sulphur atoms leads to an enhanced chemical reactivity, endowing it with biological properties including the ability to substitute potentially for α-lipoic acid in α-keto-acid oxidation systems. This brief review collects the scattered data available in the literature concerning asparagusic acid and highlights its properties, intermediary metabolism and exploratory applications.

Keywords: 1,2-Dithiolane-4-carboxylic acid; Asparagaceae family; Asparagus; Asparagus officinalis L.; Asparagusic acid; Short review; Sulphur heterocycle; Urine odour.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Asparagus Plant / chemistry*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Molecular Structure
  • Thiophenes / chemistry
  • Thiophenes / isolation & purification*
  • Thiophenes / pharmacology
  • Urine / chemistry


  • Thiophenes
  • 1,2-dithiolane-4-carboxylic acid