Human betaine-homocysteine methyltransferase (BHMT) and BHMT2: Common gene sequence variation and functional characterization

Fang Li, Qiping Feng, Candace Lee, Shuzhan Wang, Linda L. Pelleymounter, Irene Moon, Bruce W. Eckloff, Eric D. Wieben, Daniel J. Schaid, Vivien Yee, Richard M. Weinshilboum

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations


Betaine-homocysteine methyltransferase (BHMT) catalyzes the remethylation of homocysteine. BHMT2 encodes a protein 73% identical in amino acid sequence to BHMT, but the function of BHMT2 remains unclear. We set out to identify and functionally characterize common genetic variation in BHMT and BHMT2. Specifically, we sequenced exons, exon-intron splice junctions and the 5′-flanking regions (5′-FRs) of BHMT and BHMT2 using 240 DNA samples from four ethnic groups. Twenty-five single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), including 4 nonsynonymous SNPs, and 39 SNPs, including 4 nonsynonymous, were observed in BHMT and BHMT2, respectively. BHMT wild type (WT) and variant allozymes were expressed in COS-1 cells. Variant allozymes showed no significant differences from WT in levels of enzyme activity or immunoreactive protein, but there were statistically significant differences in apparent Km values. Luciferase reporter gene constructs were created for the three most common BHMT 5′-FR haplotypes, and significant variation was observed in the ability of these constructs to drive transcription. Although BHMT2 mRNA has been observed in human liver and kidney, expression of the protein has not been reported. We were unable to express BHMT2 in mammalian cells, and the protein aggregated after bacterial expression. Furthermore, BHMT2 was rapidly degraded in a rabbit reticulocyte lysate, but it could be stabilized by cotransfection of COS-1 cells with BHMT and, after cotransfection, it coprecipitated with BHMT. These studies have defined common genetic variation in BHMT and BHMT2 and functionally characterized BHMT SNPs. They may also help to explain why BHMT2 has not previously been defined functionally.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)326-335
Number of pages10
JournalMolecular genetics and metabolism
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 2008


  • BHMT
  • BHMT2
  • Betaine
  • Betaine-homocysteine methyltransferase
  • Functional genomics
  • Genetic polymorphisms
  • Homocysteine methylation
  • Methylation
  • SNPs
  • Single nucleotide polymorphism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Endocrinology


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