Sulphoxidation and sulphation capacity in patients with primary biliary cirrhosis

J Hepatol. 1995 May;22(5):551-60. doi: 10.1016/0168-8278(95)80450-1.


We have previously reported an association of impaired S-oxidation with primary biliary cirrhosis. In order to confirm and further define this relationship, we retested S-oxidation capacity via three metabolic pathways and sulphation capacity via a fourth pathway. Metabolism of S-carboxymethyl-L-cysteine is polymorphic -20% of healthy individuals being poor S-oxidisers. We found 26% with primary biliary cirrhosis were poor S-oxidisers, compared with 36% with other liver disease and 25% of healthy controls. Differences were not statistically significant. S-oxidation of ranitidine is dependent upon flavin mono-oxygenases. We showed a non-significant trend toward less S-oxide in primary biliary cirrhosis and other liver disease, compared with healthy controls, with no significant difference between disease groups. Conversion of cysteine to sulphate depends predominantly on cysteine dioxygenase. Impaired activity may be reflected by decreased plasma sulphate and elevated cysteine. We found that the plasma cysteine: sulphate ratio was significantly elevated not only in primary biliary cirrhosis (p < 0.0001), but also in other liver disease (p < 0.0001), compared with healthy individuals. Sulphation capacity was studied by analysing paracetamol metabolism. Paracetamol sulphate and sulphate: glucuronide ratio were reduced in primary biliary cirrhosis compared with normal individuals, (p < 0.05). A trend towards less sulphate in primary biliary cirrhosis compared other liver disease was not significant (p = 0.42). We conclude that although sulphation and some sulphoxidation pathways are impaired in primary biliary cirrhosis, we can currently find no evidence to substantiate the hypothesis that primary biliary cirrhosis is a disease specifically associated with poor S-oxidation, as assessed via these metabolic pathways.

MeSH terms

  • Acetaminophen / metabolism
  • Adult
  • Carbocysteine / metabolism*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Cysteine / blood
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Liver Cirrhosis, Biliary / blood
  • Liver Cirrhosis, Biliary / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Ranitidine / analogs & derivatives
  • Ranitidine / metabolism
  • Reference Values
  • Sulfoxides / metabolism*
  • Sulfuric Acid Esters / blood
  • Sulfuric Acid Esters / metabolism*


  • Sulfoxides
  • Sulfuric Acid Esters
  • Acetaminophen
  • 5-desmethylranitidine
  • ranitidine-S-oxide
  • Carbocysteine
  • Ranitidine
  • ranitidine N-oxide
  • Cysteine