Send to

Choose Destination
Curr Genomics. 2010 Dec;11(8):578-83. doi: 10.2174/138920210793360925.

Dihydrofolate reductase gene variations in susceptibility to disease and treatment outcomes.

Author information

Research Center, CHU Sainte-Justine, Montreal, QC, Canada.


Dihydrofolate reductase (DHFR) catalyzes the reduction of dihydrofolate to tetrahydrofolate (THF). THF is needed for the action of folate-dependent enzymes and is thus essential for DNA synthesis and methylation. The importance of this reaction is demonstrated by the effectiveness of antifolate medications used to treat cancer by inhibiting DHFR, thereby depleting THF and slowing DNA synthesis and cell proliferation. Due to the pivotal role that DHFR plays in folate metabolism and cancer treatment, changes in the level of DHFR expression can affect susceptibility to a variety of diseases dependent on folate status such as spina bifida and cancer. Likewise, variability in DHFR expression can affect sensitivity to anti-cancer drugs such as the folate antagonist methotrexate. Alterations in DHFR expression can be due to polymorphisms in the DHFR gene. Several variations have recently been described in DHFR, including promoter polymorphisms, the 19-bp deletion allele and variations in 3'UTR. These polymorphisms seem to be functional, affecting mRNA levels through various interesting mechanisms, including regulation through RNA interference. Several groups have assessed the association of these polymorphisms with folate levels, risk of cancer and spina bifida as well as the outcome of diseases treated with MTX. The latter may lead to different treatment schedules, improving treatment efficacy and/or allowing for a reduction in drug side effects. This review will summarize present knowledge regarding the predictive potential of DHFR polymorphisms in disease and treatment.


Gene; dihydrofolate reductase (DHFR); disease susceptibility; methotrexate (MTX); polymorphisms; therapeutic response.

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for PubMed Central
Loading ...
Support Center