Homocysteine and related amino thiols, homocysteic acid, cysteic acid, homocysteine sulphinic acid and cysteine sulphinic acid have been labelled as neurotoxins. Homocysteine thiolactone, a metabolic derivative of homocysteine, is cytotoxic to endothelial cells and other cell lineages. Since pancreatic beta cells share many phenotypic similarities with neuronal cells, the present study uses clonal pancreatic BRiN-BD11 cells to investigate possible detrimental effects of these amino thiols on insulin secretion and pancreatic beta cell function. Insulin secretion was concentration-dependently inhibited at both basal (1.1 mM) and stimulatory (16.7 mM) glucose by homocysteine, homocysteine thiolactone and homocysteine sulphinic acid. Cysteic acid concentration-dependently inhibited insulin secretion at 16.7 mM glucose. Cell viability was not compromised by any of the amino thiols. Insulin secretory responses to alanine were inhibited by homocysteine, homocysteine thiolactone, homocysteic acid and cysteic acid. Insulin secretion in the presence of elevated Ca2+ and forskolin were lowered by all amino thiols, except homocysteic acid. The secretory responsiveness to PMA, GLP-1 and KCl were only impaired in the presence of homocysteine and homocysteine thiolactone. These findings indicate that homocysteine, homocysteine thiolactone and, to a lesser extent, other amino thiols cause dysfunctional insulin secretion from pancreatic beta cells. (c) 2006 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.