Cysteine is considered a nonessential amino acid in mammals as it is synthesized from methionine via trans-sulfuration. However, premature infants or patients with hepatic failure may require dietary cysteine due to a lack of cystathionine γ-lyase (CTH), a key trans-sulfuration enzyme. Here, we generated CTH-deficient (Cth-/-) mice as an animal model of cystathioninemia/cystathioninuria. Cth-/- mice developed normally in general but displayed hypercystathioninemia/hyperhomocysteinemia though not hypermethioninemia. When fed a low cyst(e)ine diet, Cth-/- mice showed acute skeletal muscle atrophy (myopathy) accompanied by enhanced gene expression of asparagine synthetase and reduced contents of glutathione in livers and skeletal muscles, and intracellular accumulation of LC3 and p62 in skeletal myofibers; they finally died of severe paralysis of the extremities. Cth-/- hepatocytes required cystine in a culture medium and showed greater sensitivity to oxidative stress. Cth-/- mice exhibited systemic vulnerability to oxidative injury, which became more prominent when they were fed the low cyst(e)ine diet. These results reveal novel roles of trans-sulfuration previously unrecognized in mice lacking another trans-sulfuration enzyme cystathionine β-synthase (Cbs-/-). Because Cbs-/- mice display hyperhomocysteinemia and hypermethioninemia, our results raise questions against the homocysteine-based etiology of CBS deficiency and the current newborn screening for homocysteinemia using Guthrie's method, which detects hypermethioninemia.
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