Homocysteine, an amino acid containing a sulfhydryl group, is an intermediate product during metabolism of the amino acids methionine and cysteine. Hyperhomocysteinemia is used as a predictive risk factor for cardiovascular disorders, the stroke progression, screening for inborn errors of methionine metabolism, and as a supplementary test for vitamin B12 deficiency. Two organic systems in which homocysteine has the most harmful effects are the cardiovascular and nervous system. The adverse effects of homocysteine are achieved by the action of several different mechanisms, such as overactivation of N-methyl-d-aspartate receptors, activation of Toll-like receptor 4, disturbance in Ca2+ handling, increased activity of nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate-oxidase and subsequent increase of production of reactive oxygen species, increased activity of nitric oxide synthase and nitric oxide synthase uncoupling and consequent impairment in nitric oxide and reactive oxygen species synthesis. Increased production of reactive species during hyperhomocysteinemia is related with increased expression of several proinflammatory cytokines, including IL-1β, IL-6, TNF-α, MCP-1, and intracellular adhesion molecule-1. All these mechanisms contribute to the emergence of diseases like atherosclerosis and related complications such as myocardial infarction, stroke, aortic aneurysm, as well as Alzheimer disease and epilepsy. This review provides evidence that supports the causal role for hyperhomocysteinemia in the development of cardiovascular disease and nervous system disorders.
Keywords: cardiovascular system; homocysteine; homocystéine; hyperexcitability; hyperexcitabilité; hyperhomocysteinemia; hyperhomocystéinémie; nervous system; système cardiovasculaire; système nerveux.