Lanthionine (Lan), the thioether analog of cystine, is a natural but nonproteogenic amino acid thought to form naturally in mammals through promiscuous reactivity of the transsulfuration enzyme cystathionine-b-synthase (CbS). Lanthionine exists at appreciable concentrations in mammalian brain, where it undergoes aminotransferase conversion to yield an unusual cyclic thioether, lanthionine ketimine (LK; 2H
-1,4-thiazine-5,6-dihydro-3,5-dicarboxylic acid). Recently, LK was discovered to possess neuroprotective, neuritigenic and anti-inflammatory activities. Moreover, both LK and the ubiquitous redox regulator glutathione (g-glutamyl-cysteine-glycine) bind to mammalian lanthionine synthetase-like protein-1 (LanCL1) protein which, along with its homolog LanCL2, has been associated with important physiological processes including signal transduction and insulin sensitization. These findings begin to suggest that Lan and its downstream metabolites may be physiologically important substances rather than mere metabolic waste. This review summarizes the current state of knowledge about lanthionyl metabolites with emphasis on their possible relationships to LanCL1/2 proteins and glutathione. The potential significance of lanthionines in paracrine signaling is discussed with reference to opportunities for utilizing bioavailable pro-drug derivatives of these compounds as novel pharmacophores.