Women who take folic acid periconceptionally reduce their risk of having a child with a neural tube defect (NTD) by >50%. A variant form of methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR) (677C-->T) is a known risk factor for NTDs, but the prevalence of the risk genotype explains only a small portion of the protective effect of folic acid. This has prompted the search for additional NTD-associated variants in folate-metabolism enzymes. We have analyzed five potential single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in the cytoplasmic, nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate-dependent, trifunctional enzyme methylenetetrahydrofolate dehydrogenase/methenyltetrahydrofolate cyclohydrolase/formyltetrahydrofolate synthetase (MTHFD1) for an association with NTDs in the Irish population. One SNP, R653Q, in this gene appears to be associated with NTD risk. We observed an excess of the MTHFD1 "Q" allele in the mothers of children with NTD, compared with control individuals. This excess was driven by the overrepresentation of QQ homozygotes in the mothers of children with NTD compared with control individuals (odds ratio 1.52 [95% confidence interval 1.16-1.99], P=.003). We conclude that genetic variation in the MTHFD1 gene is associated with an increase in the genetically determined risk that a woman will bear a child with NTD and that the gene may be associated with decreased embryo survival.
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