The behavioral effects of L-methionine and related compounds in rats and mice.


Beaton JM, Smythies JR, Bradley RJ




Biol Psychiatry


Several groups of investigators have reported that the administration of L-methionine, with or without a monoamine oxidase inhibitor, induced an acute florid psychotic reaction in 40 percent of schizophrenics tested. The mode of action of L-methionine in brain is unknown, but may be via one or more of three mechanisms: the excess methionine (i) may lead to the production by transmethylation of some psychotomimetic methylated derivative of dopamine or serotonin, or (ii) could result in an increase in the levels of a metabolite of methionine (e.g., homocysteine, cystathionine, or cysteine), or (iii) may effect the cellular uptake of other amino acids. In order to test the first two hypotheses, L-methionine, betaine (another metyl group donor), L-methionine plus L-serine, L-cysteine, L-serine, and saline (as a control) were studied on the sleep-wake cycles of random-bred Swiss mice and on the avoidance behavior or rats. L-methionine plus L-histidine, L-methionine plus nicotinamide, L-histidine, and nicotinamide were also tested in the mice. Daily injections of 250 mg/kg of these compounds were administered for at least 21 consecutive days. Schedule performance in the rat and the sleep-wake cycles of the mice were monitored during this period and compared to controls. L-Methionine induced behavioral and sleep cycle disturbances which were removed by the simultaneous administration of L-serine but not by the addition of L-histidine or nicotinamide. These data suggest that the disruption may be due to an increase in the levels of one of the metabolities of methionine, homocysteine, rather than to an increase in the number of available methyl groups.