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1.  Genotyping of a tri-allelic polymorphism by a novel melting curve assay in MTHFD1L: an association study of nonsyndromic Cleft in Ireland 
BMC Medical Genetics  2012;13:29.
Background
Polymorphisms within the MTHFD1L gene were previously associated with risk of neural tube defects in Ireland. We sought to test the most significant MTHFD1L polymorphisms for an association with risk of cleft in an Irish cohort. This required the development of a new melting curve assay to genotype the technically challenging MTHFD1L triallelic deletion/insertion polymorphism (rs3832406).
Methods
Melting curve analysis was used to genotype the MTHFD1L triallelic deletion/insertion polymorphism (rs3832406) and a Single Nucleotide Polymorphism rs17080476 in an Irish cohort consisting of 981 Irish case-parent trios and 1,008 controls. Tests for association with nonsyndromic cleft lip with or without cleft palate and cleft palate included case/control analysis, mother/control analysis and Transmission Disequilibrium Tests of case-parent trios.
Results
A successful melting curve genotyping assay was developed for the deletion/insertion polymorphism (rs3832406). The TDT analysis initially showed that the rs3832406 polymorphism was associated with isolated cleft lip with or without cleft palate. However, corrected p-values indicated that this association was not significant.
Conclusions
Melting Curve Analysis can be employed to successfully genotype challenging polymorphisms such as the MTHFD1L triallelic deletion/insertion polymorphism (DIP) reported here (rs3832406) and is a viable alternative to capillary electrophoresis. Corrected p-values indicate no association between MTHFD1L and risk of cleft in an Irish cohort.
doi:10.1186/1471-2350-13-29
PMCID: PMC3419639  PMID: 22520921
2.  Association between MTHFD1 G1958A Polymorphism and Neural Tube Defects Susceptibility: A Meta-Analysis 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(6):e101169.
Objectives
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.
Methods
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.
Results
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.
Conclusions
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.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0101169
PMCID: PMC4076264  PMID: 24977710
3.  Evaluation of common genetic variants in 82 candidate genes as risk factors for neural tube defects 
BMC Medical Genetics  2012;13:62.
Background
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.
Methods
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.
Results
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.
Conclusions
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.
doi:10.1186/1471-2350-13-62
PMCID: PMC3458983  PMID: 22856873
Neural tube defects; Spina bifida; Folic acid; One-carbon metabolism; Candidate gene
4.  Analysis of the MTHFD1 promoter and risk of neural tube defects 
Human genetics  2009;125(3):247-256.
Genetic variants in MTHFD1 (5,10-methylenetetrahydrofolate dehydrogenase/ 5,10-methenyltetrahydrofolate cyclohydrolase/ 10-formyltetrahydrofolate synthetase), an important folate metabolic enzyme, are associated with a number of common diseases, including neural tube defects (NTDs). This study investigates the promoter of the human MTHFD1 gene in a bid to understand how this gene is controlled and regulated. Following a combination of in silico and molecular approaches, we report that MTHFD1 expression is controlled by a TATA-less, Initiator-less promoter and transcription is initiated at multiple start sites over a 126bp region. We confirmed the presence of three database polymorphisms (dbSNP) by direct sequencing of the upstream region (rs1076991 C>T, rs8010584 G>A, rs4243628 G>T), with a fourth (dbSNP rs746488 A>T) not found to be polymorphic in our population and no novel polymorphisms identified. We demonstrate that a common SNP rs1076991 C>T within the window of transcriptional initiation exerts a significant effect on promoter activity in vitro. We investigated this SNP as a potential risk factor for NTDs in a large homogenous Irish population and determined that it is not an independent risk factor, but, it does increase both case (χ2 = 11.06, P = 0.001) and maternal (χ2 = 6.68, P = 0.01) risk when allele frequencies were analysed in combination with the previously identified disease-associated p.R653Q (c.1958 G>A; dbSNP rs2236225) polymorphism. These results provide the first insight into how MTHFD1 is regulated and further emphasise its importance during embryonic development.
doi:10.1007/s00439-008-0616-3
PMCID: PMC2732995  PMID: 19130090
MTHFD1; NTD; Functional; SNP; R653Q; Promoter
5.  Folate-related gene variants in Irish families affected by neural tube defects 
Frontiers in Genetics  2013;4:223.
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.
doi:10.3389/fgene.2013.00223
PMCID: PMC3818582  PMID: 24223580
neural tube defects; folate metabolism; DHFR 19bp deletion; MTHFD1 1958G>A; MTHFR 1298A>C; MTHFR 677C>T; SLC19A1 80A>G; maternal inheritance
6.  Evaluation of 64 Candidate Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms as Risk Factors for Neural Tube Defects in a Large Irish Study Population 
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.
doi:10.1002/ajmg.a.33755
PMCID: PMC3503244  PMID: 21204206
congenital abnormalities; folic acid; neural tube defects; single nucleotide polymorphism; spina bifida
7.  Construction of a High Resolution Linkage Disequilibrium Map to Evaluate Common Genetic Variation in TP53 and Neural Tube Defect Risk in an Irish Population 
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.
doi:10.1002/ajmg.a.32504
PMCID: PMC2836760  PMID: 18798306
neural tube defects; spina bifida; p53; TP53; MDM2; linkage disequilibrium
8.  Uncoupling Protein 2 Polymorphisms as Risk Factors for Neural Tube Defects 
BACKGROUND:
Both environmental and genetic factors are involved in the etiology of neural tube defects (NTDs). Inadequate folate intake and obesity are important environmental risk factors. Several folate-related genetic variants have been identified as risk factors; however, little is known about how genetic variants relate to the increased risk seen in obese women. Uncoupling Protein 2 (UCP2) is an attractive candidate to screen for NTD risk because of its possible role in obesity as well as energy metabolism, type-2 diabetes, and the regulation of reactive oxygen species. Interestingly, a previous study found that a common UCP2 compound homozygous genotype was associated with a threefold increase in NTD risk.
METHODS:
We evaluated three polymorphisms, −866G>A, A55V, and the 3′UTR 45bp insertion/deletion, as risk factors for NTDs in Irish NTD cases (N=169), their mothers (N=163), their fathers (N=167) and normal control subjects (N=332).
RESULTS:
Allele and genotype frequencies were not significantly different when comparing NTD mothers, NTD fathers, or affected children to controls. Additionally, the previously reported risk genotype (combined homozygosity of 55VV and 3′UTR 45bp deletion/deletion) was not present at a higher frequency in any NTD group when compared to controls.
CONCLUSIONS:
In our Irish study population, UCP2 polymorphisms do not influence NTD risk. Moreover, the prevalence of this allele in other populations was similar to the Irish prevalence but far lower than reported in the previous NTD study, suggesting that this previous finding of an association with NTDs might have been due to an unrepresentative study sample.
doi:10.1002/bdra.20520
PMCID: PMC2724655  PMID: 19137581
neural tube defects; spina bifida; UCP2; obesity
9.  Maternal and Infant Gene-Folate Interactions and the Risk of Neural Tube Defects 
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.
doi:10.1002/ajmg.a.35552
PMCID: PMC3448841  PMID: 22903727
Congenital Abnormalities; Folic Acid; Genetic Association Studies; Molecular Epidemiology; Neural Tube Defects; Maternal Nutritional Physiological Phenomena; Nervous System Malformations; Nutrigenomics
10.  Association of Methylenetetrahydrofolate Dehydrogenase 1 Polymorphisms with Cancer: A Meta-Analysis 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(7):e69366.
Background
Studies investigating the association between single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) of the methylenetetrahydrofolate dehydrogenase 1 (MTHFD1) and cancer risk report conflicting results. To derive a more precise estimation of the relationship between MTHFD1 polymorphisms and cancer risk, the present meta-analysis was carried out.
Methodology/Principal Findings
A comprehensive search was conducted to determine all the eligible studies about MTHFD1 polymorphisms and cancer risk. Combined odds ratios (ORs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were used to assess the strength of the association between the MTHFD1 polymorphisms and cancer risk. We investigated by meta-analysis the effects of 2 polymorphisms in MTHFD1: G1958A (17 studies, 12348 cases, 44132 controls) and G401A (20 studies, 8446 cases, 14020 controls). The overall results indicated no major influence of these 2 polymorphisms on cancer risk. For G1958A, a decreased cancer risk was found in acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL)/Asians (the dominant: OR = 0.74, 95% CI = 0.58–0.94, P = 0.01; allelic: OR = 0.80, 95% CI = 0.65–0.99, P = 0.04) and other cancers (recessive: OR = 0.80, 95% CI = 0.66–0.96, P = 0.02). For G401A, the data showed that MTHFD1 G401A polymorphism was associated with a decreased colon cancer risk under dominant model (OR = 0.89, 95% CI = 0.80–0.99, P = 0.04).
Conclusions
The results suggest that MTHFD1 G1958A polymorphism might be associated with a decreased risk of ALL and other cancers. Meanwhile, the MTHFD1 G401A might play a protective role in the development of colon cancer. Large-scale and well-designed case-control studies are necessary to validate the risk identified in the present meta-analysis.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0069366
PMCID: PMC3716643  PMID: 23894459
11.  Lamin B1 Polymorphism Influences Morphology of the Nuclear Envelope, Cell Cycle Progression, and Risk of Neural Tube Defects in Mice 
PLoS Genetics  2012;8(11):e1003059.
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.
Author Summary
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.
doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1003059
PMCID: PMC3499363  PMID: 23166514
12.  The maternal folate hydrolase gene polymorphism is associated with neural tube defects in a high-risk Chinese population 
Genes & Nutrition  2012;8(2):191-197.
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.
doi:10.1007/s12263-012-0309-3
PMCID: PMC3575888  PMID: 22918695
Association study; Chinese population; FOLH1; Neural tube defects; Single-nucleotide polymorphism
13.  118 SNPs of folate-related genes and risks of spina bifida and conotruncal heart defects 
BMC Medical Genetics  2009;10:49.
Background
Folic acid taken in early pregnancy reduces risks for delivering offspring with several congenital anomalies. The mechanism by which folic acid reduces risk is unknown. Investigations into genetic variation that influences transport and metabolism of folate will help fill this data gap. We focused on 118 SNPs involved in folate transport and metabolism.
Methods
Using data from a California population-based registry, we investigated whether risks of spina bifida or conotruncal heart defects were influenced by 118 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) associated with the complex folate pathway. This case-control study included 259 infants with spina bifida and a random sample of 359 nonmalformed control infants born during 1983–86 or 1994–95. It also included 214 infants with conotruncal heart defects born during 1983–86. Infant genotyping was performed blinded to case or control status using a designed SNPlex assay. We examined single SNP effects for each of the 118 SNPs, as well as haplotypes, for each of the two outcomes.
Results
Few odds ratios (ORs) revealed sizable departures from 1.0. With respect to spina bifida, we observed ORs with 95% confidence intervals that did not include 1.0 for the following SNPs (heterozygous or homozygous) relative to the reference genotype: BHMT (rs3733890) OR = 1.8 (1.1–3.1), CBS (rs2851391) OR = 2.0 (1.2–3.1); CBS (rs234713) OR = 2.9 (1.3–6.7); MTHFD1 (rs2236224) OR = 1.7 (1.1–2.7); MTHFD1 (hcv11462908) OR = 0.2 (0–0.9); MTHFD2 (rs702465) OR = 0.6 (0.4–0.9); MTHFD2 (rs7571842) OR = 0.6 (0.4–0.9); MTHFR (rs1801133) OR = 2.0 (1.2–3.1); MTRR (rs162036) OR = 3.0 (1.5–5.9); MTRR (rs10380) OR = 3.4 (1.6–7.1); MTRR (rs1801394) OR = 0.7 (0.5–0.9); MTRR (rs9332) OR = 2.7 (1.3–5.3); TYMS (rs2847149) OR = 2.2 (1.4–3.5); TYMS (rs1001761) OR = 2.4 (1.5–3.8); and TYMS (rs502396) OR = 2.1 (1.3–3.3). However, multiple SNPs observed for a given gene showed evidence of linkage disequilibrium indicating that the observed SNPs were not individually contributing to risk. We did not observe any ORs with confidence intervals that did not include 1.0 for any of the studied SNPs with conotruncal heart defects. Haplotype reconstruction showed statistical evidence of nonrandom associations with TYMS, MTHFR, BHMT and MTR for spina bifida.
Conclusion
Our observations do not implicate a particular folate transport or metabolism gene to be strongly associated with risks for spina bifida or conotruncal defects.
doi:10.1186/1471-2350-10-49
PMCID: PMC2700092  PMID: 19493349
14.  A Genetic Signature of Spina Bifida Risk from Pathway-Informed Comprehensive Gene-Variant Analysis 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(11):e28408.
Despite compelling epidemiological evidence that folic acid supplements reduce the frequency of neural tube defects (NTDs) in newborns, common variant association studies with folate metabolism genes have failed to explain the majority of NTD risk. The contribution of rare alleles as well as genetic interactions within the folate pathway have not been extensively studied in the context of NTDs. Thus, we sequenced the exons in 31 folate-related genes in a 480-member NTD case-control population to identify the full spectrum of allelic variation and determine whether rare alleles or obvious genetic interactions within this pathway affect NTD risk. We constructed a pathway model, predetermined independent of the data, which grouped genes into coherent sets reflecting the distinct metabolic compartments in the folate/one-carbon pathway (purine synthesis, pyrimidine synthesis, and homocysteine recycling to methionine). By integrating multiple variants based on these groupings, we uncovered two provocative, complex genetic risk signatures. Interestingly, these signatures differed by race/ethnicity: a Hispanic risk profile pointed to alterations in purine biosynthesis, whereas that in non-Hispanic whites implicated homocysteine metabolism. In contrast, parallel analyses that focused on individual alleles, or individual genes, as the units by which to assign risk revealed no compelling associations. These results suggest that the ability to layer pathway relationships onto clinical variant data can be uniquely informative for identifying genetic risk as well as for generating mechanistic hypotheses. Furthermore, the identification of ethnic-specific risk signatures for spina bifida resonated with epidemiological data suggesting that the underlying pathogenesis may differ between Hispanic and non-Hispanic groups.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0028408
PMCID: PMC3227667  PMID: 22140583
15.  Deep Sequencing Study of the MTHFR Gene to Identify Variants Associated with Myelomeningocele 
INTRODUCTION
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).
OBJECTIVES
Sequence the 12 exons of the MTHFR gene among 96 subjects with MM to identify variants potentially contributing to the disease trait.
METHODS
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.
RESULTS
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).
CONCLUSION
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.
doi:10.1002/bdra.22884
PMCID: PMC3327553  PMID: 22241680
16.  Gene–gene interaction in folate-related genes and risk of neural tube defects in a UK population 
Journal of Medical Genetics  2004;41(4):256-260.
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.
doi:10.1136/jmg.2003.010694
PMCID: PMC1735724  PMID: 15060097
17.  SNPs in the neural cell adhesion molecule 1 gene (NCAM1) may be associated with human neural tube defects 
Human genetics  2005;117(2-3):133-142.
Neural tube defects (NTDs) are common birth defects, occurring in approximately 1/1,000 births; both genetic and environmental factors are implicated. To date, no major genetic risk factors have been identified. Throughout development, cell adhesion molecules are strongly implicated in cell–cell interactions, and may play a role in the formation and closure of the neural tube. To evaluate the role of neural cell adhesion molecule 1 (NCAM1) in risk of human NTDs, we screened for novel single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) within the gene. Eleven SNPs across NCAM1 were genotyped using TaqMan. We utilized a family-based approach to evaluate evidence for association and/or linkage disequilibrium. We evaluated American Caucasian simplex lumbosacral myelomeningocele families (n=132 families) using the family based association test (FBAT) and the pedigree disequilibrium test (PDT). Association analysis revealed a significant association between risk for NTDs and intronic SNP rs2298526 using both the FBAT test (P=0.0018) and the PDT (P=0.0025). Using the HBAT version of the FBAT to look for haplotype association, all pairwise comparisons with SNP rs2298526 were also significant. A replication study set, consisting of 72 additional families showed no significant association; however, the overall trend for overtransmission of the less common allele of SNP rs2298526 remained significant in the combined sample set. In addition, we analyzed the expression pattern of the NCAM1 protein in human embryos, and while NCAM1 is not expressed within the neural tube at the time of closure, it is expressed in the surrounding and later in differentiated neurons of the CNS. These results suggest variations in NCAM1 may influence risk for human NTDs.
doi:10.1007/s00439-005-1299-7
PMCID: PMC3130962  PMID: 15883837
18.  Association of the Maternal MTHFR C677T Polymorphism with Susceptibility to Neural Tube Defects in Offsprings: Evidence from 25 Case-Control Studies 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(10):e41689.
Background
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.
Methods
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.
Results
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.
Conclusion
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.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0041689
PMCID: PMC3463537  PMID: 23056169
19.  Gene Variants in the Folate-mediated One-carbon Metabolism (FOCM) Pathway as Risk Factors for Conotruncal Heart Defects 
We evaluated 35 variants among four folate-mediated one-carbon metabolism pathway genes, MTHFD1, SHMT1, MTHFR, and DHFR as risk factors for conotruncal heart defects. Cases with a diagnosis of single gene disorders or chromosomal aneusomies were excluded. Controls were randomly selected from area hospitals in proportion to their contribution to the total population of live-born infants. Odds Ratios (OR) and the 95% confidence intervals were computed for each genotype (homozygous variant or heterozygote, versus homozygous wildtype) and for increase of each less common allele (log-additive model). Interactions between each variant and three folate intake variables (maternal multivitamin use, maternal dietary folate intake, and combined maternal folate intake) were also evaluated under the log-additive model. In general, we did not identify notable associations. The A allele of MTHFD1 rs11627387 was associated with a 1.7-fold increase in conotruncal defects risk in both Hispanic mothers (OR=1.7, 95% CI=1.1∼2.5) and Hispanic infants (OR=1.7, 95% CI=1.2∼2.3). The T allele of MTHFR rs1801133 was associated with a 2.8-fold increase of risk among Hispanic women whose dietary folate intake was ≤ 25th centile. The C allele of MTHFR rs1801131 was associated with a two-fold increase of risk (OR=2.0, 95%CI=1.0∼3.9) only among those whose dietary folate intake was >25th centile. Our study suggested that MTHFD1 rs11627387 may be associated with risk of conotruncal defects through both maternal and offspring genotype effect among the Hispanics. Maternal functional variants in MTHFR gene may interact with dietary folate intake and modify the conotruncal defects risk in the offspring.
doi:10.1002/ajmg.a.35313
PMCID: PMC3331895  PMID: 22495907
conotruncal defects; one carbon metabolism; folate; MTHFR; MTHFD1; DHFR; SHMT1
20.  Genome-Wide Association Mapping in Dogs Enables Identification of the Homeobox Gene, NKX2-8, as a Genetic Component of Neural Tube Defects in Humans 
PLoS Genetics  2013;9(7):e1003646.
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.
Author Summary
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.
doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1003646
PMCID: PMC3715436  PMID: 23874236
21.  Genetic Variants in the Folate Pathway and the Risk of Neural Tube Defects: A Meta-Analysis of the Published Literature 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(4):e59570.
Background
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.
Conclusions
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.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0059570
PMCID: PMC3617174  PMID: 23593147
22.  Dementia Revealed: Novel Chromosome 6 Locus for Late-Onset Alzheimer Disease Provides Genetic Evidence for Folate-Pathway Abnormalities 
PLoS Genetics  2010;6(9):e1001130.
Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) of late-onset Alzheimer disease (LOAD) have consistently observed strong evidence of association with polymorphisms in APOE. However, until recently, variants at few other loci with statistically significant associations have replicated across studies. The present study combines data on 483,399 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) from a previously reported GWAS of 492 LOAD cases and 496 controls and from an independent set of 439 LOAD cases and 608 controls to strengthen power to identify novel genetic association signals. Associations exceeding the experiment-wide significance threshold () were replicated in an additional 1,338 cases and 2,003 controls. As expected, these analyses unequivocally confirmed APOE's risk effect (rs2075650, ). Additionally, the SNP rs11754661 at 151.2 Mb of chromosome 6q25.1 in the gene MTHFD1L (which encodes the methylenetetrahydrofolate dehydrogenase (NADP+ dependent) 1-like protein) was significantly associated with LOAD (; Bonferroni-corrected P = 0.022). Subsequent genotyping of SNPs in high linkage disequilibrium () with rs11754661 identified statistically significant associations in multiple SNPs (rs803424, P = 0.016; rs2073067, P = 0.03; rs2072064, P = 0.035), reducing the likelihood of association due to genotyping error. In the replication case-control set, we observed an association of rs11754661 in the same direction as the previous association at P = 0.002 ( in combined analysis of discovery and replication sets), with associations of similar statistical significance at several adjacent SNPs (rs17349743, P = 0.005; rs803422, P = 0.004). In summary, we observed and replicated a novel statistically significant association in MTHFD1L, a gene involved in the tetrahydrofolate synthesis pathway. This finding is noteworthy, as MTHFD1L may play a role in the generation of methionine from homocysteine and influence homocysteine-related pathways and as levels of homocysteine are a significant risk factor for LOAD development.
Author Summary
Studies looking for genetic variants across the genome that affect late-onset Alzheimer disease (LOAD) have had little success identifying genes other than APOE. Here, we use an expanded set of AD cases and controls to improve our power to detect genetic variants driving LOAD risk. Analyzing 483,399 genetic variants across the genome in a discovery dataset of 931 cases and 1,104 controls, we found a strong association to the marker rs11754661 on chromosome 6 in the gene MTHFD1L, in addition to the highly replicated chromosome 19 APOE association. We genotyped adjacent variants on chromosome 6 in these same cases and controls and found these variants were also associated with LOAD. We replicated the association with rs11754661 and additional SNPs in MTHFD1L in a combined dataset of cases and controls from our laboratory and from publicly available datasets. This finding is important because the gene is known to be involved in biological pathways influencing levels of homocysteine, a significant risk factor for AD.
doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1001130
PMCID: PMC2944795  PMID: 20885792
23.  Methionine synthase polymorphisms (MTR 2756 A>G and MTR 2758 C>G) frequencies and distribution in the Jordanian population and their correlation with neural tube defects in the population of the northern part of Jordan 
Indian Journal of Human Genetics  2010;16(3):138-143.
BACKGROUND:
The human methionine synthase gene (MTR) is located on chromosome 1q43; it is of 105.24 kb and is made up of 33 exons. Methionine synthase is a cytoplasmic enzyme that requires methylcobalamin for activity and catalyzes the remethylation of homocysteine to methionine. In this reaction, the methyl group of 5-methyltetrahydrofolate is transferred to the enzyme bond cob(I) alamin to generate methylcobalamin, followed by the transfer of the methyl group to homocysteine to reform methionine.
MATERIALS AND METHODS:
The frequencies of the polymorphisms of MTR 2756A>G and MTR 2758C>G have been determined in this study in a sample of 491 individuals collected from all regions of Jordan and representing the Jordanian population. The different alleles and genotypes at the two polymorphic sites were identified using the Polymerase Chain Reaction - Restriction Fragment Length Polymorphism (PCR-RFLP) analysis.
RESULTS:
Showed that the percentages of the polymorphic alleles at the MTR 2756 position in the north, middle and south regions were 90.38, 92.65 and 83.69%, respectively, for the MTR 2756A allele, and were 9.61, 7.34 and 16.30%, respectively, for the MTR 2756G allele, with overall percentages in the whole Jordanian population of 90.73 and 9.27% for the MTR 2756A and MTR 2756G alleles, respectively. The percentages of the genotype MTR 2756AA were 82.90% in the northern region, 86.72% in the middle region and 71.73% in the southern region, and an overall percentage of MTR 2756AA in the whole Jordanian population was 83.50%. The frequencies of MTR 2756AG genotype in the northern, middle and southern regions were 14.95, 11.84 and 23.91%, respectively, with an overall percentage of 14.46% in the whole Jordanian population. The percentages of the genotype MTR 2756GG in the northern, middle and southern regions were 2.13, 1.42 and 4.34%, respectively, with an overall percentage of 2.04% in the whole Jordanian population. Only the wild type allele (C) of the MTR 2758C>G polymorphism was detected in this study. In addition, the association of MTR 2756A>G and MTR 2758C>G polymorphisms with the development of neural tube defects (NTDs) was examined using 17 cases of mothers from the northern part of Jordan, who gave birth to NTD affected children during the period of this study. Results showed no association between these two examined polymorphisms and the increase in maternal risk for giving birth to NTD children.
CONCLUSION:
results of this study recommend that examination should be done on larger populations to arrive at better conclusions. Also, more studies on gene–gene interaction should be done to examine the associations with NTDs.
doi:10.4103/0971-6866.73405
PMCID: PMC3009424  PMID: 21206701
Jordan; MTR; neural tube defects; polymorphism
24.  Epigenetic Profiles in Children with a Neural Tube Defect; A Case-Control Study in Two Populations 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(11):e78462.
Folate deficiency is implicated in the causation of neural tube defects (NTDs). The preventive effect of periconceptional folic acid supplement use is partially explained by the treatment of a deranged folate-dependent one carbon metabolism, which provides methyl groups for DNA-methylation as an epigenetic mechanism. Here, we hypothesize that variations in DNA-methylation of genes implicated in the development of NTDs and embryonic growth are part of the underlying mechanism. In 48 children with a neural tube defect and 62 controls from a Dutch case-control study and 34 children with a neural tube defect and 78 controls from a Texan case-control study, we measured the DNA-methylation levels of imprinted candidate genes (IGF2-DMR, H19, KCNQ1OT1) and non-imprinted genes (the LEKR/CCNL gene region associated with birth weight, and MTHFR and VANGL1 associated with NTD). We used the MassARRAY EpiTYPER assay from Sequenom for the assessment of DNA-methylation. Linear mixed model analysis was used to estimate associations between DNA-methylation levels of the genes and a neural tube defect. In the Dutch study group, but not in the Texan study group we found a significant association between the risk of having an NTD and DNA methylation levels of MTHFR (absolute decrease in methylation of −0.33% in cases, P-value = 0.001), and LEKR/CCNL (absolute increase in methylation: 1.36% in cases, P-value = 0.048), and a borderline significant association for VANGL (absolute increase in methylation: 0.17% in cases, P-value = 0.063). Only the association between MTHFR and NTD-risk remained significant after multiple testing correction. The associations in the Dutch study were not replicated in the Texan study. We conclude that the associations between NTDs and the methylation of the MTHFR gene, and maybe VANGL and LEKKR/CNNL, are in line with previous studies showing polymorphisms in the same genes in association with NTDs and embryonic development, respectively.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0078462
PMCID: PMC3818348  PMID: 24223810
25.  Neural Tube Defects and Folate Pathway Genes: Family-Based Association Tests of Gene–Gene and Gene–Environment Interactions 
Environmental Health Perspectives  2006;114(10):1547-1552.
Background
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.
Objectives
Our study evaluates several folate pathway genes for association with human NTDs, incorporating an environmental cofactor: maternal folate supplementation.
Methods
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.
Results
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.
Conclusions
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.
doi:10.1289/ehp.9166
PMCID: PMC1626421  PMID: 17035141
folate; folic acid supplementation; genetic association; neural tube defects

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