N-acetyl-S-(2-hydroxyethyl)-L-cysteine as a potential tool in biological monitoring studies? A critical evaluation of possibilities and limitations

N P Vermeulen, J de Jong, E J van Bergen, R.T.H. van Welie

Research output: Contribution to JournalReview articleAcademicpeer-review


In mammalian species, including man, N-acetyl-S-(2-hydroxyethyl)-L-cysteine (2-HEMA) is a common urinary metabolite of a large number of structurally different xenobiotic chemicals. It is a common urinary end product of glutathione pathway metabolism of a variety of chemicals possessing electrophilic properties and, in most cases, also a genotoxic potential. Five different chemically reactive intermediates, with different electrophilic properties, may be involved in the formation of 2-HEMA. An inventory of chemicals known to lead to the formation of 2-HEMA, or based on their chemical structure expected to do so, is presented. Furthermore, an attempt is made to evaluate the possibilities and limitations in terms of the potential use of urinary 2-HEMA as a tool in biomonitoring studies. Two other related, sulfur-containing urinary metabolites, i.e. N-acetyl-(S-carboxymethyl)-L-cysteine and thio-diacetic acid, are proposed as possible alternatives to urinary 2-HEMA. It is suggested that 2-HEMA might be seen as a potentially useful and sensitive signal parameter for the assessment of exposure of animals and man to a variety of electrophilic and therefore potentially toxic xenobiotic chemicals.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)173-84
Number of pages12
JournalArchives of Toxicology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1989


  • Acetylcysteine
  • Animals
  • Biomarkers
  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Environmental Pollution
  • Humans
  • Journal Article
  • Review


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