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Redox status of plasma homocysteine and other plasma thiols in stroke patients

      Abstract

      Despite the growing evidence that plasma homocysteine is a cardiovascular risk factor, the mechanism behind the vascular injuries is still unknown. Studies are difficult as a result of the fact that little is known about the formation of different homocysteine species in vivo. Since extracellular glutathione and cysteine may influence the formation of different homocysteine species, we have in the present study investigated the different fractions of homocysteine and their relation to the different fractions of glutathione and cysteine in stroke patients and control subjects. We found a ratio of about 32–33% between reduced and total plasma glutathione concentrations and 2.6–3.0% between reduced and total plasma cysteine concentrations both in patients and in healthy control subjects. We noted an elevated concentration of total plasma homocysteine in stroke patients, but no difference in the ratio between reduced and total plasma homocysteine concentrations in patients and control subjects (mean value 1.20 and 1.10%, respectively). However, in a subgroup of patients with higher concentrations of total plasma homocysteine, we observed a significantly lower ratio of reduced to total plasma homocysteine compared to a subgroup of patients with lower concentration of total plasma homocysteine. A low reduced/total ratio of plasma homocysteine in combination with elevated plasma homocysteine concentrations might reflect an increased pro-oxidant activity in plasma from these patients. Thus, increased pro-oxidant activity in plasma might be one factor, besides genetic and nutritional factors, that could explain hyperhomocysteinemia. Since substantial evidence indicates that progression of atherosclerosis is related to enhanced pro-oxidant activity, the premature vascular disease associated with increased plasma homocysteine concentration might be as a result of increased pro-oxidant activity and the elevated plasma homocysteine concentration may only reflect the increased oxidative stress.

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