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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1999 Oct 26;96(22):12810-5.

Polymorphisms in the methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase gene are associated with susceptibility to acute leukemia in adults.

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  • 1School of Public Health, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720, USA. martynts@uclink4.berkeley.edu


Reduction of 5,10-methylenetetrahydrofolate (methyleneTHF), a donor for methylating dUMP to dTMP in DNA synthesis, to 5-methyltetrahydrofolate (methylTHF), the primary methyl donor for methionine synthesis, is catalyzed by 5,10-methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR). A common 677 C --> T polymorphism in the MTHFR gene results in thermolability and reduced MTHFR activity that decreases the pool of methylTHF and increases the pool of methyleneTHF. Recently, another polymorphism in MTHFR (1298 A --> C) has been identified that also results in diminished enzyme activity. We tested whether carriers of these variant alleles are protected from adult acute leukemia. We analyzed DNA from a case-control study in the United Kingdom of 308 adult acute leukemia patients and 491 age- and sex-matched controls. MTHFR variant alleles were determined by a PCR-restriction fragment length polymorphism assay. The MTHFR 677TT genotype was lower among 71 acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL) cases compared with 114 controls, conferring a 4.3-fold decrease in risk of ALL [odds ratio (OR = 0.23; 95% CI = 0.06-0.81]. We observed a 3-fold reduction in risk of ALL in individuals with the MTHFR 1298AC polymorphism (OR = 0.33; 95% CI = 0.15-0.73) and a 14-fold decreased risk of ALL in those with the MTHFR 1298CC variant allele (OR = 0.07; 95% CI = 0.00-1.77). In acute myeloid leukemia, no significant difference in MTHFR 677 and 1298 genotype frequencies was observed between 237 cases and 377 controls. Individuals with the MTHFR 677TT, 1298AC, and 1298CC genotypes have a decreased risk of adult ALL, but not acute myeloid leukemia, which suggests that folate inadequacy may play a key role in the development of ALL.

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