Accessible Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter November 12, 2019

Treatment-resistant schizophrenia: focus on the transsulfuration pathway

Thomas Berry, Eid Abohamza and Ahmed A. Moustafa


Treatment-resistant schizophrenia (TRS) is a severe form of schizophrenia. The severity of illness is positively related to homocysteine levels, with high homocysteine levels due to the low activity of the transsulfuration pathway, which metabolizes homocysteine in synthesizing L-cysteine. Glutathione levels are low in schizophrenia, which indicates shortages of L-cysteine and low activity of the transsulfuration pathway. Hydrogen sulfide (H2S) levels are low in schizophrenia. H2S is synthesized by cystathionine β-synthase and cystathionine γ-lyase, which are the two enzymes in the transsulfuration pathway. Iron-sulfur proteins obtain sulfur from L-cysteine. The oxidative phosphorylation (OXPHOS) pathway has various iron-sulfur proteins. With low levels of L-cysteine, iron-sulfur cluster formation will be dysregulated leading to deficits in OXPHOS in schizophrenia. Molybdenum cofactor (MoCo) synthesis requires sulfur, which is obtained from L-cysteine. With low levels of MoCo synthesis, molybdenum-dependent sulfite oxidase (SUOX) will not be synthesized at appropriate levels. SUOX detoxifies sulfite from sulfur-containing amino acids. If sulfites are not detoxified, there can be sulfite toxicity. The transsulfuration pathway metabolizes selenomethionine, whereby selenium from selenomethionine can be used for selenoprotein synthesis. The low activity of the transsulfuration pathway decreases selenoprotein synthesis. Glutathione peroxidase (GPX), with various GPXs being selenoprotein, is low in schizophrenia. The dysregulations of selenoproteins would lead to oxidant stress, which would increase the methylation of genes and histones leading to epigenetic changes in TRS. An add-on treatment to mainline antipsychotics is proposed for TRS that targets the dysregulations of the transsulfuration pathway and the dysregulations of other pathways stemming from the transsulfuration pathway being dysregulated.


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Received: 2019-06-05
Accepted: 2019-07-19
Published Online: 2019-11-12
Published in Print: 2020-01-28

©2020 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston