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BMC Med Genet. 2011 Mar 7;12:35. doi: 10.1186/1471-2350-12-35.

Hearing impairment risk and interaction of folate metabolism related gene polymorphisms in an aging study.

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Department of Otorhinolaryngology, National Center for Geriatrics and Gerontology, 35 Gengo, Morioka, Obu City, Aichi Prefecture 474-8511, Japan.



Recent investigations demonstrated many genetic contributions to the development of human age-related hearing impairment (ARHI), however, reports of factors associated with a reduction in the ARHI risk are rare. Folate metabolism is essential for cellular functioning. Despite the extensive investigations regarding the roles of folate metabolism related gene polymorphisms in the pathophysiology of complex diseases, such as cancer, cardio-cerebrovascular disease, and atherosclerosis, little is known about the association with ARHI. The aim of this study is to investigate the effects of the methionine synthase (MTR) A2756G and methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR) C677T gene polymorphisms on the risk of hearing impairment in middle-aged and elderly Japanese.


Data were collected from community-dwelling Japanese adults aged 40-84 years who participated in the Longitudinal Study of Aging biennially between 1997 and 2008. We analyzed cumulative data (5,167 samples in accumulated total) using generalized estimating equations.


The MTHFR 677T allele was significantly associated with a reduced risk of hearing impairment only when the subjects were wild-type homozygotes for MTR A2756G. The per-T allele odds ratio of MTHFR for the risk of developing hearing impairment was 0.7609 (95% CI: 0.6178-0.9372) in the MTR AA genotype. In addition, a subgroup analysis demonstrated that the favorable effect of the MTHFR 677T allele on the risk of developing hearing impairment was independent of folate and homocysteine level, whereas plasma total homocysteine level was independently associated with an increased risk of developing hearing impairment. The interactive effect of gene polymorphisms associated with folate metabolism may modify the risk of developing hearing impairment after middle age. These results contribute to the elucidation of the causes of ARHI.


The present study has found that the MTHFR 677T allele has a favorable effect on a risk of hearing impairment in the middle-aged and elderly population, only when the individuals were wild-type homozygotes for MTR A2756G.

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