Homocysteine (Hcy) is a non-protein forming amino acid which is the direct metabolic precursor of methionine. Increased concentration of serum Hcy is considered a risk factor for cardiovascular disease and is specifically linked to various diseases of the vasculature. Serum Hcy is associated with atherosclerosis, hypertension and aneurysms of the aorta in humans, though the precise mechanisms by which Hcy contributes to these conditions remain elusive. Results from clinical trials that successfully lowered serum Hcy without reducing features of vascular disease in cardiovascular patients has cast doubt on whether or not Hcy directly impacts the vasculature. However, studies in animals and in cell culture suggest that Hcy has a vast array of toxic effects on the vasculature, with demonstrated roles in endothelial dysfunction, medial remodeling and adventitial inflammation. It is hypothesized that rather than serum Hcy, tissue-bound Hcy and the incorporation of Hcy into proteins could underlie the toxic effects of Hcy on the vasculature. In this review, we present evidence for Hcy-associated vascular disease in humans, and we critically examine the possible mechanisms by which Hcy specifically impacts the endothelial, medial and adventitial layers of the arterial wall. Deciphering the mechanisms by which Hcy interacts with proteins in the arterial wall will allow for a better understanding of the pathomechanisms of hyperhomocysteinemia and will help to define a better prevention at the appropriate window of life.
Copyright © 2020. Published by Elsevier B.V.