Trimethylamine N-Oxide (TMAO) is the product of the monooxygenation reaction catalyzed by a drug-metabolizing enzyme, human flavin-containing monooxygenase 3 (hFMO3), and its animal orthologues. For several years, researchers have looked at TMAO and hFMO3 as two distinct molecules playing specific but separate roles, the former to defend saltwater animals from osmotic or hydrostatic stress and the latter to process xenobiotics in men. The presence of high levels of plasmatic TMAO in elasmobranchs and other animals was demonstrated a long time ago, whereas the actual physiological role of hFMO3 is still unknown because the enzyme has been mainly characterized for its ability to oxidize drugs. Recently TMAO was found to be related to several human health conditions such as atherosclerosis, cardiovascular, and renal diseases. This correlation poses a striking question of how other vertebrates (and invertebrates) can survive in the presence of very high TMAO concentrations (micromolar in humans, millimolar in marine mammals and several hundred millimolar in elasmobranchs). Therefore, it is important to address how TMAO, its precursors, and FMO catalytic activity are interconnected.
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