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J Inherit Metab Dis. 2008 Jun;31(3):403-11. doi: 10.1007/s10545-008-0645-z. Epub 2008 Apr 14.

Mefolinate (5-methyltetrahydrofolate), but not folic acid, decreases mortality in an animal model of severe methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase deficiency.

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  • 1Departments of Human Genetics, Pediatrics and Biology, McGill University-Montreal Children's Hospital Research Institute, Montreal, Canada.


Severe deficiency of methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR) results in homocystinuria, with a variety of neurological and vascular complications, and sometimes death in the first year of life. MTHFR (EC catalyses the synthesis of 5-methyltetrahydrofolate (5-methylTHF) which is required for homocysteine remethylation to methionine. Mthfr (-/-) mice are a good animal model of severe MTHFR deficiency in humans. They have marked hyperhomocysteinaemia and a high rate of mortality in the neonatal period. We attempted to rescue Mthfr (-/-) mice from postnatal death by treating their Mthfr (+/-) mothers with mefolinate (a synthetic form of 5-methylTHF, dissolved in their drinking water) or with a folic acid-enriched diet throughout pregnancy and lactation. We monitored pups' vitality and body weights until 3 weeks of age. The majority of Mthfr (-/-) pups from the control groups died during the first week of life. Body weights of -/- pups from control groups were significantly less than those of their Mthfr (+/-) and Mthfr ( +/+ ) littermates. Mefolinate treatment significantly improved survival rates (64% survival) in the -/- pups and improved morphology of the cerebellum. Folic acid supplementation did not affect the survival rate or body weights of the -/- pups. Our study suggests that MTHFR is important for postnatal growth and vitality, and that 5-methylTHF deficiency contributes to the high postnatal mortality. Mefolinate may be a good candidate drug for treatment of severe MTHFR deficiency.

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