Individual studies of the genetics of neural tube defects (NTDs) contain results on a small number of genes in each report. To identify genetic risk factors for NTDs, we evaluated potentially functional single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) that are biologically plausible risk factors for NTDs but that have never been investigated for an association with NTDs, examined SNPs that previously showed no association with NTDs in published studies, and tried to confirm previously reported associations in folate-related and non-folate-related genes. We investigated 64 SNPs in 34 genes for association with spina bifida in up to 558 case-families (520 cases, 507 mothers, 457 fathers) and 994 controls in Ireland. Case-control and mother-control comparisons of genotype frequencies, tests of transmission disequilibrium, and log-linear regression models were used to calculate effect estimates. Spina bifida was associated with over-transmission of the LEPR (leptin receptor) rs1805134 minor C allele (genotype relative risk (GRR): 1.5; 95% confidence interval (CI): 1.0, 2.1; P = 0.0264) and the COMT (catechol-O-methyltransferase) rs737865 major T allele (GRR: 1.4; 95% CI: 1.1, 2.0; P = 0.0206). After correcting for multiple comparisons, these individual test P-values exceeded 0.05. Consistent with previous reports, spina bifida was associated with MTHFR 677C>T, T (Brachyury) rs3127334, LEPR K109R, and PDGFRA promoter haplotype combinations. The associations between LEPR SNPs and spina bifida suggest a possible mechanism for the finding that obesity is a NTD risk factor. The association between a variant in COMT and spina bifida implicates methylation and epigenetics in NTDs.
congenital abnormalities; folic acid; neural tube defects; single nucleotide polymorphism; spina bifida
Genetic and environmental factors contribute to the etiology of neural tube defects (NTDs). While periconceptional folic acid supplementation is known to significantly reduce the risk of NTDs, folate metabolic pathway related factors do not account for all NTDs. Evidence from mouse models indicates that the tumor protein p53 (TP53) is involved in implantation and normal neural tube development. To determine whether genetic variation in the TP53 might contribute to NTD risk in humans, we constructed a high resolution linkage disequilibrium (LD) map of the TP53 genomic region based on genotyping 21 markers in an Irish population. We found that nine of these variants can be used to capture the majority of common variation in the TP53 genomic region. In contrast, the 3-marker haplotype commonly reported in the TP53 literature offers limited coverage of the variation in the gene. We used the expanded set of polymorphisms to measure the influence of TP53 on NTDs using both case-control and family-based tests of association. We also assayed a functional variant in the p53 regulator MDM2 (rs2279744). Alleles of three noncoding TP53 markers were associated with NTD risk. A case effect was seen with the GG genotype of rs1625895 in intron 6 (OR = 1.37 [1.04-1.79], p=0.02). A maternal effect was seen with the 135/135 genotype of the intron 1 VNTR (OR = 1.86 [1.16-2.96], p=0.01) and the TT genotype of rs1614984 (RR = 0.58 [0.37-0.91], p=0.02). As multiple comparisons were made, these cannot be considered definitive positive findings and additional investigation is required.
neural tube defects; spina bifida; p53; TP53; MDM2; linkage disequilibrium
Periconceptional folic acid use can often prevent neural tube defects (NTDs). Variants of genes involved in folate metabolism in mothers and children have been associated with occurrence of NTDs. We identified Irish families with individuals affected by neural tube defects. In these families, we observed that neural tube defects and birth defects overall occurred at a higher rate in the maternal lineage compared with the paternal lineage. The goal of this study was to look for evidence for genetic effects that could explain the discrepancy in the occurrence of these birth defects in the maternal vs. paternal lineage. We genotyped blood samples from 322 individuals from NTD-affected Irish families, identified through their membership in spina bifida associations. We looked for differences in distribution in maternal vs. paternal lineages of five genetic polymorphisms: the DHFR 19 bp deletion, MTHFD1 1958G>A, MTHFR 1298A>C, MTHFR 677C>T, and SLC19A1 80A>G. In addition to looking at genotypes individually, we determined the number of genotypes associated with decreased folate metabolism in each relative (“risk genotypes”) and compared the distribution of these genotypes in maternal vs. paternal relatives. Overall, maternal relatives had a higher number of genotypes associated with lower folate metabolism than paternal relatives (p = 0.017). We expected that relatives would share the same risk genotype as the individuals with NTDs and/or their mothers. However, we observed that maternal relatives had an over-abundance of any risk genotype, rather than one specific genotype. The observed genetic effects suggest an epigenetic mechanism in which decreased folate metabolism results in epigenetic alterations related to the increased rate of NTDs and other birth defects seen in the maternal lineage. Future studies on the etiology of NTDs and other birth defects could benefit from including multigenerational extended families, in order to explore potential epigenetic mechanisms.
neural tube defects; folate metabolism; DHFR 19bp deletion; MTHFD1 1958G>A; MTHFR 1298A>C; MTHFR 677C>T; SLC19A1 80A>G; maternal inheritance
The methylenetetrahydrofolate dehydrogenase (MTHFD1) gene, as one of the key genes involved in the folate pathway, has been reported to play a critical role in the pathogenesis of neural tube defects (NTDs). However, the results of published studies are contradictory and inconclusive. Thus, this meta-analysis aimed to evaluate the effect of the common polymorphism in the MTHFD1 gene, the G1958A (R653Q, dbSNP ID: rs2236225) variant, on the risk of NTDs in all eligible studies.
Relevant literature published before January 3, 2014 was retrieved from the MEDLINE, EMBASE, Cochrane Library, and CBM databases. Pooled crude odds ratios (ORs) and their corresponding 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were calculated to evaluate the association between the MTHFD1 G1958A polymorphism and NTDs risk.
We performed a meta-analysis of nine studies with a total of 4,302 NTDs patients and 4,238 healthy controls. Our results demonstrated a significant correlation between the MTHFD1 G1958A polymorphism and NTDs in an overall meta-analysis. For family-based studies, the study subjects were classified as NTD cases, mothers with NTDs offspring, and fathers with NTDs offspring. We found no association between any of the fathers’ genotypes and NTDs, whereas there was a clear excess of the 1958A allele in the mothers of children with NTDs compared with controls individuals.
In summary, our meta-analysis strongly suggests that the MTHFD1 G1958A polymorphism might be associated with maternal risk for NTDs in Caucasian populations. However, the evidence of this association should be interpreted with caution due to the selective nature of publication of genetic association studies.
Neural tube defects (NTDs) are common birth defects (~1 in 1000 pregnancies in the US and Europe) that have complex origins, including environmental and genetic factors. A low level of maternal folate is one well-established risk factor, with maternal periconceptional folic acid supplementation reducing the occurrence of NTD pregnancies by 50-70%. Gene variants in the folate metabolic pathway (e.g., MTHFR rs1801133 (677 C > T) and MTHFD1 rs2236225 (R653Q)) have been found to increase NTD risk. We hypothesized that variants in additional folate/B12 pathway genes contribute to NTD risk.
A tagSNP approach was used to screen common variation in 82 candidate genes selected from the folate/B12 pathway and NTD mouse models. We initially genotyped polymorphisms in 320 Irish triads (NTD cases and their parents), including 301 cases and 341 Irish controls to perform case–control and family based association tests. Significantly associated polymorphisms were genotyped in a secondary set of 250 families that included 229 cases and 658 controls. The combined results for 1441 SNPs were used in a joint analysis to test for case and maternal effects.
Nearly 70 SNPs in 30 genes were found to be associated with NTDs at the p < 0.01 level. The ten strongest association signals (p-value range: 0.0003–0.0023) were found in nine genes (MFTC, CDKN2A, ADA, PEMT, CUBN, GART, DNMT3A, MTHFD1 and T (Brachyury)) and included the known NTD risk factor MTHFD1 R653Q (rs2236225). The single strongest signal was observed in a new candidate, MFTC rs17803441 (OR = 1.61 [1.23-2.08], p = 0.0003 for the minor allele). Though nominally significant, these associations did not remain significant after correction for multiple hypothesis testing.
To our knowledge, with respect to sample size and scope of evaluation of candidate polymorphisms, this is the largest NTD genetic association study reported to date. The scale of the study and the stringency of correction are likely to have contributed to real associations failing to survive correction. We have produced a ranked list of variants with the strongest association signals. Variants in the highest rank of associations are likely to include true associations and should be high priority candidates for further study of NTD risk.
Neural tube defects; Spina bifida; Folic acid; One-carbon metabolism; Candidate gene
Objective: To investigate the contribution of polymorphic variation in genes involved in the folate-dependent homocysteine pathway in the aetiology of neural tube defects (NTD).
Design: Case-control association study.
Subjects: A total of 530 individuals from families affected by NTD, 645 maternal controls, and 602 healthy newborn controls from the northern UK.
Main outcome measures: Seven polymorphisms in six genes coding for proteins in the folate-dependent homocysteine pathway (MTHFR 677C→T, MTHFR 1298A→C, MTRR 66A→G, SHMT 1420C→T, CßS 844ins68, GCPII 1561C→T, RFC-1 80G→A). The impact of each polymorphism and the effect of gene–gene interactions (epistasis) upon risk of NTD were assessed using logistic regression analysis.
Results: The MTHFR 677C→T polymorphism was shown to represent a risk factor in NTD cases (CC v CT+TT odds ratio (OR) 2.03 [95% confidence interval (CI) 1.09, 3.79] p = 0.025) and the MTRR 66A→G polymorphism was shown to exert a protective effect in NTD cases (AA v AG+GG OR 0.31 [95% CI 0.10, 0.94] p = 0.04). When statistical tests for interaction were conducted, three genotype combinations in cases (MTRR/GCPII; MTHFR 677/CßS; MTHFR 677/MTRR) and one combination in case mothers (CßS/RFC-1) were shown to elevate NTD risk. Maternal–fetal interaction was also detected when offspring carried the MTHFR 677C→T variant and mothers carried the MTRR 66A→G variant, resulting in a significantly elevated risk of NTD.
Conclusion: Both independent genetic effects and gene–gene interaction were observed in relation to NTD risk. Multi-locus rather than single locus analysis might be preferable to gain an accurate assessment of genetic susceptibility to NTD.
Few studies have evaluated genetic susceptibility related to diabetes and obesity as a risk factor for neural tube defects (NTDs). The authors investigated 23 single nucleotide polymorphisms among 9 genes (ADRB3, ENPP1, FTO, LEP, PPARG, PPARGC1A, SLC2A2, TCF7L2, and UCP2) associated with type 2 diabetes or obesity. Samples were obtained from 737 NTD case-parent triads included in the National Birth Defects Prevention Study during 1999–2007. Log-linear models were used to evaluate maternal and offspring genetic effects. After application of the false discovery rate, there were 5 significant maternal genetic effects. The less common alleles at the 4 FTO single nucleotide polymorphisms showed a reduction of NTD risk (for rs1421085, relative risk (RR) = 0.73 (95% confidence interval (CI): 0.62, 0.87); for rs8050136, RR = 0.79 (95% CI: 0.67, 0.93); for rs9939609, RR = 0.79 (95% CI: 0.67, 0.94); and for rs17187449, RR = 0.80 (95% CI: 0.68, 0.95)). Additionally, maternal LEP rs2071045 (RR = 1.31, 95% CI: 1.08, 1.60) and offspring UCP2 rs660339 (RR = 1.32, 95% CI: 1.06, 1.64) were associated with NTD risk. Furthermore, the maternal genotype for TCF7L2 rs3814573 suggested an increased NTD risk among obese women. These findings indicate that maternal genetic variants associated with glucose homeostasis may modify the risk of having an NTD-affected pregnancy.
case-parent triads; diabetes; genetics; neural tube defects; obesity
Neural tube defects (NTDs), including spina bifida and anencephaly, are common birth defects whose complex multigenic causation has hampered efforts to delineate their molecular basis. The effect of putative modifier genes in determining NTD susceptibility may be investigated in mouse models, particularly those that display partial penetrance such as curly tail, a strain in which NTDs result from a hypomorphic allele of the grainyhead-like-3 gene. Through proteomic analysis, we found that the curly tail genetic background harbours a polymorphic variant of lamin B1, lacking one of a series of nine glutamic acid residues. Lamins are intermediate filament proteins of the nuclear lamina with multiple functions that influence nuclear structure, cell cycle properties, and transcriptional regulation. Fluorescence loss in photobleaching showed that the variant lamin B1 exhibited reduced stability in the nuclear lamina. Genetic analysis demonstrated that the variant also affects neural tube closure: the frequency of spina bifida and anencephaly was reduced three-fold when wild-type lamin B1 was bred into the curly tail strain background. Cultured fibroblasts expressing variant lamin B1 show significantly increased nuclear dysmorphology and diminished proliferative capacity, as well as premature senescence, associated with reduced expression of cyclins and Smc2, and increased expression of p16. The cellular basis of spinal NTDs in curly tail embryos involves a proliferation defect localised to the hindgut epithelium, and S-phase progression was diminished in the hindgut of embryos expressing variant lamin B1. These observations indicate a mechanistic link between altered lamin B1 function, exacerbation of the Grhl3-mediated cell proliferation defect, and enhanced susceptibility to NTDs. We conclude that lamin B1 is a modifier gene of major effect for NTDs resulting from loss of Grhl3 function, a role that is likely mediated via the key function of lamin B1 in maintaining integrity of the nuclear envelope and ensuring normal cell cycle progression.
Failure of early development of the central nervous system leads to severe malformations termed neural tube defects (NTDs), including spina bifida and anencephaly. Inherited genetic risk factors play a major role in determining susceptibility to NTDs, but causative genes have proven difficult to identify. In this study we investigated genetic factors that could alter the risk of NTDs in an established mouse model, curly tail, in which defects result from partial loss of function of the grainyhead-like-3 (Grhl3) gene. We identified a variant of lamin B1, a key protein component of the envelope that surrounds the cell nucleus. The protein alteration reduces the structural integrity of the nuclear envelope, causes the nuclei to have altered shape, and reduces the rate of cell division. Curly tail embryos that carry the “abnormal” lamin B1 variant develop NTDs at three times the rate of those that carry the normal version. We conclude that lamin B1 function influences risk of NTDs due to effects on cell proliferation.
Neural tube defects (NTDs) are common, serious malformations with a complex etiology that suggests involvement of both genetic and environmental factors. The authors evaluated maternal or offspring folate-related gene variants and interactions between the gene variants and maternal intake of folates on the risk of NTDs in their offspring. A case-control study was conducted on mothers and/or their fetuses and infants who were born in California from 1999–2003 with an NTD (cases n = 222, including 24 mother-infant pairs) or without a major malformation (controls n = 454, including 186 mother-infant pairs). Maternal intake of folates was assessed by food frequency questionnaire and genotyping was performed on samples from mothers and infants. For mothers in the lowest folate-intake group, risk of NTDs in offspring was significantly decreased for maternal MTHFR SNPs rs1476413, rs1801131 and rs1801133 (odds ratio (OR) = 0.55, 80% confidence interval (CI): 0.20, 1.48; OR = 0.58, 80% CI: 0.24, 1.43; OR = 0.69, 80% CI: 0.41, 1.17, respectively), and TYMS SNPs rs502396 and rs699517 (OR= 0.91, 80% CI: 0.53, 1.56; OR = 0.70, 80% CI: 0.38, 1.29). A gene-only effect was observed for maternal SHMT1 SNP rs669340 (OR = 0.69, 95% CI: 0.49, 0.96). When there was low maternal folate intake, risk of NTDs was significantly increased for infant MTHFD1 SNPs rs2236224, rs2236225 and rs11627387 (OR = 1.58, 80% CI: 0.99, 2.51; OR = 1.53, 80% CI: 0.95, 2.47; OR = 4.25, 80% CI: 2.33, 7.75, respectively) and SHMT1 SNP rs12939757 (OR = 2.01, 80% CI: 1.20, 3.37), but decreased for TYMS SNP rs2847153 (OR = 0.73, 80% CI: 0.37, 1.45). Although power to detect interaction effects was low for this birth defects association study, the gene-folate interactions observed in this study represent preliminary findings that will be useful for informing future studies on the complex etiology of NTDs.
Congenital Abnormalities; Folic Acid; Genetic Association Studies; Molecular Epidemiology; Neural Tube Defects; Maternal Nutritional Physiological Phenomena; Nervous System Malformations; Nutrigenomics
Neural tube defects (NTDs) are one of the most common birth defects caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Currently, little is known about the genetic basis of NTDs although up to 70% of human NTDs were reported to be attributed to genetic factors. Here we performed genome-wide copy number variants (CNVs) detection in a cohort of Chinese NTD patients in order to exam the potential role of CNVs in the pathogenesis of NTDs.
The genomic DNA from eighty-five NTD cases and seventy-five matched normal controls were subjected for whole genome CNVs analysis. Non-DGV (the Database of Genomic Variants) CNVs from each group were further analyzed for their associations with NTDs. Gene content in non-DGV CNVs as well as participating pathways were examined.
Fifty-five and twenty-six non-DGV CNVs were detected in cases and controls respectively. Among them, forty and nineteen CNVs involve genes (genic CNV). Significantly more non-DGV CNVs and non-DGV genic CNVs were detected in NTD patients than in control (41.2% vs. 25.3%, p<0.05 and 37.6% vs. 20%, p<0.05). Non-DGV genic CNVs are associated with a 2.65-fold increased risk for NTDs (95% CI: 1.24–5.87). Interestingly, there are 41 cilia genes involved in non-DGV CNVs from NTD patients which is significantly enriched in cases compared with that in controls (24.7% vs. 9.3%, p<0.05), corresponding with a 3.19-fold increased risk for NTDs (95% CI: 1.27–8.01). Pathway analyses further suggested that two ciliogenesis pathways, tight junction and protein kinase A signaling, are top canonical pathways implicated in NTD-specific CNVs, and these two novel pathways interact with known NTD pathways.
Evidence from the genome-wide CNV study suggests that genic CNVs, particularly ciliogenic CNVs are associated with NTDs and two ciliogenesis pathways, tight junction and protein kinase A signaling, are potential pathways involved in NTD pathogenesis.
Folate hydrolase 1 (FOLH1) gene encodes intestinal folate hydrolase, which regulates intestinal absorption of dietary folate. Previous studies on the association between polymorphisms rs202676 and rs61886492 and the risk of neural tube defects (NTDs) were inconclusive. A case–control study of women with NTD-affected pregnancies (n = 160) and controls (n = 320) was conducted in the Chinese population of Lvliang, a high-risk area for NTDs. We genotyped the polymorphic sites rs202676 and rs61886492 and assessed maternal plasma folate and total homocysteine (tHcy). Our results showed that in case group, plasma folate concentrations were 18 % lower compared with those of control group (8.32 vs. 6.79 nmol/L, p = 0.033) and tHcy concentrations were 17 % higher (10.47 vs. 12.65 μmol/L, p = 0.047). Almost all samples had the rs61886492 GG genotype (99.78 %). The result showed that the frequency of GG genotype in rs202676 was significantly higher in group with multiple NTDs than in controls (p = 0.030, OR = 2.157, 95 % CI, 1.06–4.38). The multiple-NTD group showed higher maternal plasma concentrations of tHcy (10.47 vs. 13.96 μmol/L, p = 0.024). The GG genotype of rs202676 had a lower maternal folate and higher tHcy concentrations than other genotypes with no significant differences. The result of structural prediction indicated that this variation might change the spatial structure of the protein. These results suggested that the maternal polymorphism rs202676 was a potential risk factor for multiple NTDs in this Chinese population. The allele G might affect maternal plasma folate and tHcy concentration.
Association study; Chinese population; FOLH1; Neural tube defects; Single-nucleotide polymorphism
Methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR) is a critical enzyme in folate metabolism and is involved in DNA methylation, DNA synthesis, and DNA repair. In addition, it is a possible risk factor in neural tube defects (NTDs). The association of the C677T polymorphism in the MTHFR gene and NTD susceptibility has been widely demonstrated, but the results remain inconclusive. In this study, we performed a meta-analysis with 2429 cases and 3570 controls to investigate the effect of the MTHFR C677T polymorphism on NTDs.
An electronic search of PubMed and Embase database for papers on the MTHFR C677T polymorphism and NTD risk was performed. All data were analysed with STATA (version 11). Odds ratios (ORs) with 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were estimated to assess the association. Sensitivity analysis, test of heterogeneity, cumulative meta-analysis, and assessment of bias were performed in our meta-analysis.
A significant association between the MTHFR C677T polymorphism and NTD susceptibility was revealed in our meta-analysis ( TT versus CC: OR = 2.022, 95% CI: 1.508, 2.712; CT+TT versus CC: OR = 1.303, 95% CI: 1.089, 1.558; TT versus CC+CT: OR = 1.716, 95% CI: 1.448, 2.033; 2TT+CT versus 2CC+CT: OR = 1.330, 95% CI: 1.160, 1.525). Moreover, an increased NTD risk was found after stratification of the MTHFR C677T variant data by ethnicity and source of controls.
The results suggested the maternal MTHFR C677T polymorphism is a genetic risk factor for NTDs. Further functional studies to investigate folate-related gene polymorphisms, periconceptional multivitamin supplements, complex interactions, and the development of NTDs are warranted.
BACKGROUND: Suboptimal maternal folate status is considered a risk factor for neural tube defects (NTDs). However, the relationship between dietary folate status and risk of NTDs appears complex, as experimentally induced folate deficiency is insufficient to cause NTDs in nonmutant mice. In contrast, folate deficiency can exacerbate the effect of an NTD-causing mutation, as in splotch mice. The purpose of the present study was to determine whether folate deficiency can induce NTDs in mice with a permissive genetic background which do not normally exhibit defects. METHODS: Folate deficiency was induced in curly tail and genetically matched wild-type mice, and we analyzed the effect on maternal folate status, embryonic growth and development, and frequency of NTDs. RESULTS: Folate-deficient diets resulted in reduced maternal blood folate, elevated homocysteine, and a diminished embryonic folate content. Folate deficiency had a deleterious effect on reproductive success, resulting in smaller litter sizes and an increased rate of resorption. Notably, folate deficiency caused a similar-sized, statistically significant increase in the frequency of cranial NTDs among both curly tail (Grhl3 mutant) embryos and background-matched embryos that are wild type for Grhl3. The latter do not exhibit NTDs under normal dietary conditions. Maternal supplementation with myo-inositol reduced the incidence of NTDs in the folate-deficient wild-type strain. CONCLUSIONS: Dietary folate deficiency can induce cranial NTDs in nonmutant mice with a permissive genetic background, a situation that likely parallels gene-nutrient interactions in human NTDs. Our findings suggest that inositol supplementation may ameliorate NTDs resulting from insufficient dietary folate. Birth Defects Research (Part A), 2010. © 2009 Wiley-Liss, Inc.
neural tube defects; folic acid; inositol; exencephaly; curly tail; diet
Folate metabolism pathway genes have been examined for association with neural tube defects (NTDs) because folic acid supplementation reduces the risk of this debilitating birth defect. Most studies addressed these genes individually, often with different populations providing conflicting results.
Our study evaluates several folate pathway genes for association with human NTDs, incorporating an environmental cofactor: maternal folate supplementation.
In 304 Caucasian American NTD families with myelomeningocele or anencephaly, we examined 28 polymorphisms in 11 genes: folate receptor 1, folate receptor 2, solute carrier family 19 member 1, transcobalamin II, methylenetetrahydrofolate dehydrogenase 1, serine hydroxymethyl-transferase 1, 5,10-methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR), 5-methyltetrahydrofolate-homo-cysteine methyltransferase, 5-methyltetrahydrofolate-homocysteine methyltransferase reductase, betaine-homocysteine methyltransferase (BHMT), and cystathionine-beta-synthase.
Only single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in BHMT were significantly associated in the overall data set; this significance was strongest when mothers took folate-containing nutritional supplements before conception. The BHMT SNP rs3733890 was more significant when the data were stratified by preferential transmission of the MTHFR rs1801133 thermolabile T allele from parent to offspring. Other SNPs in folate pathway genes were marginally significant in some analyses when stratified by maternal supplementation, MTHFR, or BHMT allele transmission.
BHMT rs3733890 is significantly associated in our data set, whereas MTHFR rs1801133 is not a major risk factor. Further investigation of folate and methionine cycle genes will require extensive SNP genotyping and/or resequencing to identify novel variants, inclusion of environmental factors, and investigation of gene–gene interactions in large data sets.
folate; folic acid supplementation; genetic association; neural tube defects
Neural tube defects (NTDs) are common, severe congenital malformations whose causation involves multiple genes and environmental factors. Although more than 200 genes are known to cause NTDs in mice, there has been rather limited progress in delineating the molecular basis underlying most human NTDs. Numerous genetic studies have been carried out to investigate candidate genes in cohorts of patients, with particular reference to those that participate in folate one-carbon metabolism. Although the homocysteine remethylation gene MTHFR has emerged as a risk factor in some human populations, few other consistent findings have resulted from this approach. Similarly, attention focused on the human homologues of mouse NTD genes has contributed only limited positive findings to date, although an emerging association between genes of the non-canonical Wnt (planar cell polarity) pathway and NTDs provides candidates for future studies. Priorities for the next phase of this research include: (i) larger studies that are sufficiently powered to detect significant associations with relatively minor risk factors; (ii) analysis of multiple candidate genes in groups of well-genotyped individuals to detect possible gene–gene interactions; (iii) use of high throughput genomic technology to evaluate the role of copy number variants and to detect ‘private’ and regulatory mutations, neither of which have been studied to date; (iv) detailed analysis of patient samples stratified by phenotype to enable, for example, hypothesis-driven testing of candidates genes in groups of NTDs with specific defects of folate metabolism, or in groups of fetuses with well-defined phenotypes such as craniorachischisis.
Risk of neural tube defects (NTDs) is determined by genetic and environmental factors, among which folate status appears to play a key role. However, the precise nature of the link between low folate status and NTDs is poorly understood, and it remains unclear how folic acid prevents NTDs. We investigated the effect of folate level on risk of NTDs in splotch (Sp2H) mice, which carry a mutation in Pax3. Dietary folate restriction results in reduced maternal blood folate, elevated plasma homocysteine and reduced embryonic folate content. Folate deficiency does not cause NTDs in wild-type mice, but causes a significant increase in cranial NTDs among Sp2H embryos, demonstrating a gene–environment interaction. Control treatments, in which intermediate levels of folate are supplied, suggest that NTD risk is related to embryonic folate concentration, not maternal blood folate concentration. Notably, the effect of folate deficiency appears more deleterious in female embryos than males, since defects are not prevented by exogenous folic acid. Folate-deficient embryos exhibit developmental delay and growth retardation. However, folate content normalized to protein content is appropriate for developmental stage, suggesting that folate availability places a tight limit on growth and development. Folate-deficient embryos also exhibit a reduced ratio of s-adenosylmethionine (SAM) to s-adenosylhomocysteine (SAH). This could indicate inhibition of the methylation cycle, but we did not detect any diminution in global DNA methylation, in contrast to embryos in which the methylation cycle was specifically inhibited. Hence, folate deficiency increases the risk of NTDs in genetically predisposed splotch embryos, probably via embryonic growth retardation.
Polymorphisms in folate-related genes have emerged as important risk factors in a range of diseases including neural tube defects (NTDs), cancer and coronary artery disease (CAD). Having previously identified a polymorphism within the cytoplasmic folate enzyme, MTHFD1, as a maternal risk factor for NTDs; we considered the more recently identified mitochondrial paralogue, MTHFD1L as a candidate gene for NTD association. We identified a common deletion/insertion polymorphism, rs3832406, c.781-6823ATT(7-9), that influences splicing efficiency and is strongly associated with NTD risk. Three alleles of rs3832406 were detected in the Irish population with varying number of ATT repeats; Allele 1 consists of ATT7, while Alleles 2 and 3 consist of ATT8 and ATT9 respectively. Allele 2 of this triallelic polymorphism showed a decreased case risk as demonstrated by case-control logistic regression (P= 0.002) and by transmission disequilibrium test (TDT) (P= 0.001); while Allele 1 showed an increased case risk. Allele 3 showed no influence on NTD risk and represents the lowest frequency allele (0.15). Additional SNP genotyping in the same genomic region provides additional supportive evidence of an association. We demonstrate that two of the three alleles of rs3832406 are functionally different and influence the splicing efficiency of the alternate MTHFD1L mRNA transcripts.
MTHFD1L; NTD; Splicing; Polymorphism; Association; Folate; Mitochondria
Neural tube defects (NTDs) are congenital anomalies caused by a combination of genetic and environmental influences. A defect below the head region resulting in protuberance of meninges and nervous tissue is termed myelomeningocele (MM). MM, the most common NTD compatible with survival, occurs in approximately 1 in 1,000 births worldwide. Maternal pre- and periconceptional folate supplementation reduces the risk of NTDs by up to 70%. A key enzyme in folate metabolism is 5, 10-methylene-tetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR).
Sequence the 12 exons of the MTHFR gene among 96 subjects with MM to identify variants potentially contributing to the disease trait.
Exons were amplified by polymerase chain reaction and the products were sequenced by Sanger method to reveal sequence variants compared to MTHFR reference sequences. Association of variants was examined by Fisher’s test.
A novel variant c.171+3G>T was identified in intron 1 in one affected subject. The variant was not found in the subject’s unaffected mother’s DNA and the unaffected father’s DNA was unavailable. We found significant differences in allele frequencies for seven SNPs in MM subjects compared to ethnically matched reference populations reported in the single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) database (dbSNP).
We identified a novel variant c.171+3G>T in the MTHFR gene that potentially affects splicing in an affected subject. Also, we observed five SNPs (rs13306561, rs2274976, rs2066462, rs12121543, and rs1476413) in the MTHFR gene not previously shown to associate with MM. The current study provides additional evidence that multiple variations in the MTHFR gene are associated with MM.
Neural tube defects (NTDs) is a general term for central nervous system malformations secondary to a failure of closure or development of the neural tube. The resulting pathologies may involve the brain, spinal cord and/or vertebral column, in addition to associated structures such as soft tissue or skin. The condition is reported among the more common birth defects in humans, leading to significant infant morbidity and mortality. The etiology remains poorly understood but genetic, nutritional, environmental factors, or a combination of these, are known to play a role in the development of NTDs. The variable conditions associated with NTDs occur naturally in dogs, and have been previously reported in the Weimaraner breed. Taking advantage of the strong linkage-disequilibrium within dog breeds we performed genome-wide association analysis and mapped a genomic region for spinal dysraphism, a presumed NTD, using 4 affected and 96 unaffected Weimaraners. The associated region on canine chromosome 8 (pgenome = 3.0×10−5), after 100,000 permutations, encodes 18 genes, including NKX2-8, a homeobox gene which is expressed in the developing neural tube. Sequencing NKX2-8 in affected Weimaraners revealed a G to AA frameshift mutation within exon 2 of the gene, resulting in a premature stop codon that is predicted to produce a truncated protein. The exons of NKX2-8 were sequenced in human patients with spina bifida and rare variants (rs61755040 and rs10135525) were found to be significantly over-represented (p = 0.036). This is the first documentation of a potential role for NKX2-8 in the etiology of NTDs, made possible by investigating the molecular basis of naturally occurring mutations in dogs.
Neural tube defects (NTDs) are birth defects resulting from errors in the closure of the neural tube, an embryonic structure which develops into tissues of the central nervous system during pregnancy. NTDs commonly lead to costly lifelong disabilities. They are considered to be caused by a combination of nutritional, inherited and environmental factors, and their interactions. However, an obvious mechanism is currently unknown. Genetic studies in human populations are made difficult by the multifactorial nature of NTDs and because multiple cases within a single family are rare. Animal models are helpful in dissecting the genetics of such complex traits; however existing rodent models do not explain all of the NTD cases in humans. Dogs are excellent biomedical models for humans since they receive comparable medical care, share our home environment, and develop naturally occurring diseases comparable to those in humans. We used a naturally occurring NTD in Weimaraner dogs, termed spinal dysraphism, to identify a mutation in an associated regulatory gene, NKX2-8. Mutations in NKX2-8 were subsequently documented in human patients with a generally similar NTD termed spina bifida. This is the first documented evidence that NKX2-8 has a role in NTDs. It is expected that this discovery will contribute to our understanding of the mechanisms leading to NTDs.
Neural tube defect (NTD) is a multi-factorial disorder in which nutritional, genetic and environmental factors are involved. Among the nutritional factors, low level of serum zinc has been reported from different parts of the world. This hospital-based case-control study was conducted with the objective of finding the relationship between serum zinc level in newborns and their mothers and NTDs in a Bangladeshi population. The study was conducted during August 2006–July 2007 at the Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU) in Dhaka. In total, 32 mothers and their newborns with NTDs were included as cases and another 32 mothers with their normal babies were included as controls. Concentration of serum zinc was determined by pyro-coated graphite furnace atomic absorption spectrophotometer (GF-AAS). The mean age of the case and control mothers was 25.28 years and 24.34 years respectively. The mean gestational age of the case newborns was 36.59 weeks and that of the control newborns was 37.75 weeks. The mean serum zinc level of the case and control mothers was 610.2 μg/L and 883.0 μg/L respectively (p<0.01). The mean serum zinc level of the case and control newborns was 723 μg/L and 1,046 μg/L respectively (p<0.01). In both case and control groups, the serum zinc level of the newborns positively correlated with that of the mothers. The serum zinc levels of the mothers and newborns negatively correlated with NTDs. Mothers with serum zinc level lower than normal were 7.66 [95% confidence interval (CI) 2.5-23.28] times more likely to have NTDs compared to the normal zinc level of mothers. After adjusting for the zinc level of the newborns, parity, and age of the mothers, this risk reduced 1.61 times [confidence interval (CI) 95% 0.24-8.77]. On the other hand, the low serum zinc level of the newborns was 7.22 times more associated with NTDs compared to the newborns with the normal serum zinc level, which was statistically significant (p=0.001). After adjusting for other factors, such as maternal age and parity, newborns with the low serum zinc level was found to be 9.186 times more likely to be associated with NTDs compared to newborns with normal serum zinc level. Based on the findings, it may be concluded that the low serum zinc levels of newborns may be associated with NTDs. To confirm these findings, a further study with a larger sample-size is recommended. Moreover, a follow-up study with zinc supplementation to pregnant women and its impact on NTDs is also recommended.
Atomic absorption spectrophotometer; Case-control studies; Neural tube defects; Serum zinc; Zinc deficiency; Bangladesh
Neural Tube Defects (NTDs) are among the most prevalent and most severe congenital malformations worldwide. Polymorphisms in key genes involving the folate pathway have been reported to be associated with the risk of NTDs. However, the results from these published studies are conflicting. We surveyed the literature (1996–2011) and performed a comprehensive meta-analysis to provide empirical evidence on the association.
Methods and Findings
We investigated the effects of 5 genetic variants from 47 study populations, for a total of 85 case-control comparisons MTHFR C677T (42 studies; 4374 cases, 7232 controls), MTHFR A1298C (22 studies; 2602 cases, 4070 controls), MTR A2756G (9 studies; 843 cases, 1006 controls), MTRR A66G (8 studies; 703 cases, 1572 controls), and RFC-1 A80G (4 studies; 1107 cases, 1585 controls). We found a convincing evidence of dominant effects of MTHFR C677T (OR 1.23; 95%CI 1.07–1.42) and suggestive evidence of RFC-1 A80G (OR 1.55; 95%CI 1.24–1.92). However, we found no significant effects of MTHFR A1298C, MTR A2756G, MTRR A66G in risk of NTDs in dominant, recessive or in allelic models.
Our meta-analysis strongly suggested a significant association of the variant MTHFR C677T and a suggestive association of RFC-1 A80G with increased risk of NTDs. However, other variants involved in folate pathway do not demonstrate any evidence for a significant marginal association on susceptibility to NTDs.
Tumor protein 53 (tp53) is one of the candidate gene proposed for neural tube defects, which affects central nervous system during early embryonic development, on the basis of mouse models.
The present study is an attempt to unfold the possible role of tp53 G412C polymorphism in the incidence of neural tube defect (NTDs) in humans.
SETTINGS AND DESIGN:
Case-control study was carried out in government hospitals of Delhi, India.
MATERIALS AND METHODS:
Subjects comprised of 100 mothers of NTD children and 100 matched control mothers. Information on some environmental exposures was collected along with blood samples. After DNA extraction, the genotyping of tp53 G412C polymorphism was carried out by PCR-RFLP method.
Fisher Exact or Chi square test, binary logistic model, and odds ratio (95% confidence interval) calculations were used to evaluate effect of risk factors on NTDs using SPSS v17.0.
The ‘CC’ genotype of tp53 G412C showed protective effect towards the development of anencephaly and/or encephalocele (OR: 0.44; 95% CI: 0.19-1.00); however, no significant difference among overall NTD cases and controls was observed (P>0.05). Further segregation of all subjects based on 2 different communities, Hindus and Muslims, the association of ‘CC’ genotype of the polymorphism with reduced NTD risk was observed among Hindu community (OR: 0.33; 95% CI: 0.13-0.79).
The study highlights the selective advantage provided by maternal ‘CC’ genotype, thereby reducing risk of cephalic NTDs, probably due to the lower apoptotic activity of the protein, however, more specifically in the presence of community-specific microenvironment.
R72P; cephalic NTDs; Hindus; dietary habits
The PCMT1 gene encodes the protein repair enzyme protein-l-isoaspartate (d-aspartate) O-methyltransferase, which is known to protect certain neural cells against Bax-induced apoptosis. Previous studies have produced inconsistent results regarding the effects of PCMT1 (rs4816 and rs4552) polymorphisms on neural tube defects (NTDs). Reduced maternal plasma folate levels and/or elevated homocysteine (Hcy) levels are considered to be risk factors for NTDs. In order to clarify the key factors contributing to the apparent discrepancy and investigate gene–environment interaction, we conducted a case–control study including 121 cases and 146 matched controls to investigate the association between the two PCMT1 polymorphisms in fetuses and the risk of NTDs in the Chinese population of Lvliang, which has low folate intake. Maternal plasma folate and Hcy levels were also measured, and the interaction between fetal PCMT1 gene status and maternal folate metabolites was assessed. Maternal plasma folate concentrations in the NTD group were lower than in controls (10.23 vs. 13.08 nmol/L, adjusted P = 0.059), and Hcy concentrations were significantly higher (14.46 vs. 11.65 μmol/L, adjusted P = 0.026). Fetuses carrying the rs4816 AG + GG genotype, combined with higher maternal plasma Hcy, had a 6.46-fold (95 % CI 1.15–36.46) increased risk of anencephaly. The results of this study imply that the fetal PCMT1 rs4816 polymorphism may play only a weak role in NTD formation and that gene–environment interactions might be more significant.
Association study; PCMT1; Homocysteine; Neural tube defect; Gene–environment interaction
Neural tube defect (NTD) prevalence in northern China is among the highest worldwide. Dealing with the NTD situation is ranked as the number one task in China's scientific development plan in population and health field for the next decade. Physical and social environments account for much of the disease's occurrence. The environmental determinants and their effects on NTD vary across geographical regions, whereas factors that play a significant role in NTD occurrence may be buried by global statistics analysis to a pooled dataset over the entire study area. This study aims at identification of the local determinants of NTD across the study area and exploration of the epidemiological implications of the findings.
NTD prevalence rate is represented in terms of the random field theory, and Rushton's circle method is used to stabilize NTD rate estimation across the geographical area of interest; NTD determinants are represented by their measurable proxy variables and the geographical weighted regression (GWR) technique is used to represent the spatial heterogeneity of the NTD determinants.
Informative maps of the NTD rates and the statistically significant proxy variables are generated and rigorously assessed in quantitative terms.
The NTD determinants in the study area are investigated and interpreted on the basis of the maps of the proxy variables and the relationships between the proxy variables and the NTD determinants. No single determinant was found to dominate the NTD occurrence in the study area. Villages where NTD rates are significantly linked to environmental determinants are identified (some places are more closely linked to certain environmental factors than others). The results improve current understanding of NTD spread in China and provide valuable information for adequate disease intervention planning.
STUDY OBJECTIVE: The objective of the study was to describe the epidemiology of neural tube defects (NTD) in the eastern region of Ireland using the EUROCAT register of congenital malformations. DESIGN, SETTING AND PATIENTS: EUROCAT registries monitor the prevalence of congenital anomalies in defined populations using multiple sources for case ascertainment. All cases of NTD on the Dublin EUROCAT register born between 1980 and 1994 were extracted and analysed. The crude birth prevalence rate for all NTD, spina bifida, anencephaly and encephalocoele were calculated for each year. Parameters measured were: sex ratio, stillbirth rate, proportion of low birth-weight babies (< 2500 g) and the proportion who were premature (< 37 weeks gestation). MAIN RESULTS: Of 821 NTD cases, 419 (51.0%) had spina bifida, 322 (39.2%) had anencephaly, 69 (8.4%) had encephalocoele and 11 (1.3%) were iniencephalic. The crude birth prevalence of NTD decreased fourfold from 46.9/10,000 births in 1980 to 11.6/10,000 in 1994. The downward trend ceased during the early 1990's. Younger mothers had significantly higher rates of NTD affected births. Twenty two per cent of NTD cases had additional non-central nervous system anomalies. In 40 cases, there was a previous family history of NTD in siblings. Seasonal effects in birth prevalence were observed. Birth notification was the most frequent mechanism of ascertainment. CONCLUSION: There was a marked fall in the birth prevalence of NTD during the 15 year period. This change was real and not accounted for by pre-natal screening and diagnostic practises with termination of pregnancy, which is not legally permissible in Ireland. Dietary factors may have had an influence. Rates of NTD in this region are still higher than many other parts of Europe. Primary prevention strategies through increased folic acid intake are necessary to further reduce NTD affected births.