1. The ratio of the methyl donor, S-adenosylmethionine, to the co-product, S-adenosylhomocysteine (the methylation ratio) is known to control the activity of methyltransferases in tissues. Inactivation of the vitamin B12-dependent enzyme, methionine synthase, reduces the methylation ratio in rats and pigs in vivo.
2. We have determined the effect that such alterations have on neural protein ‘O’ and ‘N’ methyltransferases using an in vitro assay in rats, pigs and humans in the presence of the normal methylation ratio and the abnormal methylation ratios found experimentally in vivo in rats and pigs.
3. The methylation ratio found in the neural tissues of vitamin B12-inactivated pigs significantly inhibits the protein methyltransferases of pigs and humans.
4. By contrast, the altered methylation ratio found in vitamin B12-inactivated rats only marginally inhibits the equivalent rat methyltransferases.
5. This is consistent with the induction of a myelopathy by such treatment in pigs and humans, but not in the rat.
6. Dietary supplements of methionine given to vitamin B12-inactivated pigs have been shown to prevent the myelopathy in vivo by both elevating the neural S-adenosylmethionine level and resetting the methylation ratio. We find in our in vitro assay that these events reinstate the methyltransferase activity to near normal levels, thus explaining its protective effect in vivo.