Total homocysteine in plasma or serum: methods and clinical applications

Clin Chem. 1993 Sep;39(9):1764-79.


Total homocysteine is defined as the sum of all homocysteine species in plasma/serum, including free and protein-bound forms. In the present review, we compare and evaluate several techniques for the determination of total homocysteine. Because these assays include the conversion of all forms into a single species by reduction, the redistribution between free and protein-bound homocysteine through disulfide interchange does not affect the results, and total homocysteine can be measured in stored samples. Total homocysteine in whole blood increases at room temperature because of a continuous production and release of homocysteine from blood cells, but artificial increase is low if the blood sample is centrifuged within 1 h of collection or placed on ice. Different methods correlate well, and values between 5 and 15 mumol/L in fasting subjects are considered normal. Total homocysteine in serum/plasma is increased markedly in patients with cobalamin or folate deficiency, and decreases only when they are treated with the deficient vitamin. Total homocysteine is therefore of value for the diagnosis and follow-up of these deficiency states and may compensate for weaknesses of the traditional laboratory tests. In addition, total homocysteine is an independent risk factor for premature cardiovascular diseases. These disorders justify introduction of the total homocysteine assay in the routine clinical chemistry laboratory.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Blood Chemical Analysis / methods
  • Homocysteine / blood*
  • Humans
  • Plasma / chemistry
  • Reference Values


  • Homocysteine