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1.  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
2.  Targeted Disruption of the Methionine Synthase Gene in Mice 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2001;21(4):1058-1065.
Alterations in homocysteine, methionine, folate, and/or B12 homeostasis have been associated with neural tube defects, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. Methionine synthase, one of only two mammalian enzymes known to require vitamin B12 as a cofactor, lies at the intersection of these metabolic pathways. This enzyme catalyzes the transfer of a methyl group from 5-methyl-tetrahydrofolate to homocysteine, generating tetrahydrofolate and methionine. Human patients with methionine synthase deficiency exhibit homocysteinemia, homocysteinuria, and hypomethioninemia. They suffer from megaloblastic anemia with or without some degree of neural dysfunction and mental retardation. To better study the pathophysiology of methionine synthase deficiency, we utilized gene-targeting technology to inactivate the methionine synthase gene in mice. On average, heterozygous knockout mice from an outbred background have slightly elevated plasma homocysteine and methionine compared to wild-type mice but seem to be otherwise indistinguishable. Homozygous knockout embryos survive through implantation but die soon thereafter. Nutritional supplementation during pregnancy was unable to rescue embryos that were completely deficient in methionine synthase. Whether any human patients with methionine synthase deficiency have a complete absence of enzyme activity is unclear. These results demonstrate the importance of this enzyme for early development in mice and suggest either that methionine synthase-deficient patients have residual methionine synthase activity or that humans have a compensatory mechanism that is absent in mice.
doi:10.1128/MCB.21.4.1058-1065.2001
PMCID: PMC99560  PMID: 11158293

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