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Open Access Research

Activation of transsulfuration pathway by salvianolic acid a treatment: a homocysteine-lowering approach with beneficial effects on redox homeostasis in high-fat diet-induced hyperlipidemic rats

Wenting Zhang, Hua He, Haidong Wang, Shijun Wang, Xi Li, Yao Liu, Huiyong Jiang, Hao Jiang, Yidan Yan, Yixuan Wang and Xiaoquan Liu*

Author Affiliations

Center for Drug Metabolism and Pharmacokinetics, China Pharmaceutical University, Tongjiaxiang 24, Gulou district, Nanjing 210009, Jiangsu, China

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Nutrition & Metabolism 2013, 10:68  doi:10.1186/1743-7075-10-68

Published: 6 December 2013



Elevated homocysteine is a cardiovascular risk factor in hyperlipidemia. Transsulfuration pathway provides an endogenous pathway for homocysteine conversion to antioxidant glutathione (GSH). Salvianolic acid A (Sal A) contains two molecules of caffeic acid and one molecule of danshensu that is capable of enhancing homocysteine transsulfuration, which led to the hypothesis that Sal A has activatory effect on transsulfuration pathway and this effect may have beneficial effects on both homocysteine and redox status in hyperlipidemia.

Methods and results

To test this hypothesis, we developed a rat model of hyperlipidemia induced by high-fat diet for 16 weeks, during which rats were treated with 1 mg/kg salvianolic acid A (Sal A) for the final 4 weeks. Activities of key enzymes and metabolite profiling in the transsulfuration pathway revealed that hyperlipidemia led to elevated plasma homocysteine levels after 16-week dietary treatment, which was associated with reduced activities of homocysteine transsulfuration enzymes, cystathionine β-synthase (CBS) and cystathionine γ-lyase (CSE). The impaired transsulfuration pathway prevented homocysteine transsulfuration to cysteine, resulting in cysteine deficiency and subsequent reduction in GSH pool size. The redox status was altered in the setting of hyperlipidemia as indicated by GSH/GSSG ratio. Sal A treatment increased hepatic CBS and CSE activities, which was associated with reduced accumulation in circulating homocysteine levels and attenuated decline in hepatic cysteine content in hyperlipidemic rats. Sal A also led to an increase in GSH pool size, which subsequently caused a restored GSH/GSSG ratio. The activatory effect of Sal A on CBS was also observed in normal rats and in in vitro experiment.


Our results suggest that activation of transsulfuration pathway by Sal A is a promising homocysteine-lowering approach that has beneficial effects on redox homeostasis in hyperlipidemic settings.

Hyperlipidemia; Transsulfuration pathway; Homocysteine; Redox status; Salvianolic acid A