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J Inherit Metab Dis. 2011 Feb;34(1):147-57. doi: 10.1007/s10545-010-9127-1. Epub 2010 Jun 8.

Complete deficiency of methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase in mice is associated with impaired retinal function and variable mortality, hematological profiles, and reproductive outcomes.

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1
Departments of Human Genetics, Pediatrics, and Biology, McGill University-Montreal Children's Hospital Research Institute, Montreal, H3Z 2Z3, Canada.

Abstract

Severe deficiency of methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR) with homocystinuria can result in early demise or later-onset neurological impairment, including developmental delay, motor dysfunction, and seizures. We previously characterized BALB/c Mthfr (-/-)mice as a model for this disorder and have recently backcrossed the disrupted allele onto the C57Bl/6 background to examine the variable phenotypes in MTHFR deficiency. Compared with BALB/c Mthfr (-/-)mice, C57Bl/6 Mthfr (-/-)mice have enhanced survival rates (81% vs 26.5%). Four-day-old BALB/c mutant pups had lower body, brain, and spleen weights relative to their wild-type counterparts compared with C57Bl/6 mutants. Pregnant BALB/c Mthfr (+/-)mice had increased resorptions and embryonic delays compared with wild-type littermates, whereas these outcomes in C57Bl/6 c Mthfr (+/-)mice were similar to those of wild-type C57Bl/6 mice. BALB/c-mutant pups had altered hematological profiles (higher hematocrit, hemoglobin, and white blood cell counts, with lower platelet counts) compared with C57Bl/6 mutants. Mutants of both strains had similar degrees of hepatic steatosis, hepatic activity of betaine:homocysteine methyltransferase, and altered cerebellar histology. Electroretinograms (ERG) in C57Bl/6 Mthfr (-/-)mice revealed decreased amplitude of scotopic and photopic waves in 6-week-old mice, with normalized ERGs at 13 weeks. Plasma homocysteine was modestly higher in C57Bl/6 compared with BALB/c mice. Our results emphasize the variable presentation of MTHFR deficiency in different genetic backgrounds and suggest that plasma homocysteine is not a predictor of severity. In addition, our novel findings of decreased spleen weights, thrombocytopenia, and impaired retinal function warrant investigation in patients with severe MTHFR deficiency or other forms of homocystinuria.

PMID:
20532821
DOI:
10.1007/s10545-010-9127-1
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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