Homocysteine metabolism in renal failure.

Of the many amino acid abnormalities that are present in chronic renal failure, hyperhomocysteinemia has drawn increasing attention because of its proposed role in the development and/or progression of atherothrombotic disease. Renal function is a major determinant of fasting plasma homocysteine level, and the inverse relationship between the glomerular filtration rate (GFR) and plasma homocysteine level is present throughout the whole range of renal function. Although this suggests an active renal homocysteine metabolism, no important urinary excretion or active homocysteine extraction has been demonstrated in the human kidney. Analysis of plasma concentrations of the various cofactors and substrates of homocysteine metabolism, and the effects of different therapies indicate that an abnormal folate metabolism may be the cause of hyperhomocysteinemia in uremia. This is further supported by the finding that homocysteine remethylation, as assessed by stable isotope techniques, is impaired in dialysis patients. It is unclear whether decreased remethylation is also responsible for other abnormalities of homocysteine metabolism in renal failure such as the exaggerated rise and the impaired decline of plasma homocysteine concentration after methionine or homocysteine loading. More studies are necessary to pinpoint the precise mechanisms that lead to hyperhomocysteinemia in renal failure. This should lead to optimal treatment and, ultimately, to the prevention of cardiovascular complications in this vulnerable patient group.