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J Nutr. 2008 Dec;138(12):2323-7. doi: 10.3945/jn.108.096404.

A 19-base pair deletion polymorphism in dihydrofolate reductase is associated with increased unmetabolized folic acid in plasma and decreased red blood cell folate.

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Vitamin Metabolism and Aging Laboratory, Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University, Boston, MA 02111, USA.


Dihydrofolate reductase (DHFR) catalyzes the reduction of folic acid to tetrahydrofolate (THF). A 19-bp noncoding deletion allele maps to intron 1, beginning 60 bases from the splice donor site, and has been implicated in neural tube defects and cancer, presumably by influencing folate metabolism. The functional impact of this polymorphism has not yet been demonstrated. The objective of this research was to determine the effects of the DHFR mutation with respect to folate status and assess influence of folic acid intake on these relations. The relationship between DHFR genotype and plasma concentrations of circulating folic acid, total folate, total homocysteine, and concentrations of RBC folate was determined in 1215 subjects from the Framingham Offspring Study. There was a significant interaction between DHFR genotype and folic acid intake with respect to the prevalence of high circulating unmetabolized folic acid (defined as >85th percentile). Folic acid intake of >or=500 microg/d increased the prevalence of high circulating unmetabolized folic acid in subjects with the deletion (del/del genotype (47.0%) compared with the wild type (WT)/del (21.4%) and wild type (WT)/WT genotypes (24.4%) (P for interaction = 0.03). Interaction between the DHFR polymorphism and folic acid intake was also seen with respect to RBC folate (P for interaction = 0.01). When folic acid intake was <250 microg/d, the del/del genotype was associated with significantly lower RBC folate (732.3 nmol/L) compared with the WT/WT genotype (844.4 nmol/L). Our results suggest the del/del polymorphism in DHFR is a functional polymorphism, because it limits assimilation of folic acid into cellular folate stores at high and low folic acid intakes.

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