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PLoS One. 2011;6(11):e27198. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0027198. Epub 2011 Nov 9.

Xenopus reduced folate carrier regulates neural crest development epigenetically.

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State Key Laboratory of Genetic Resources and Evolution, Kunming Institute of Zoology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Kunming, China.


Folic acid deficiency during pregnancy causes birth neurocristopathic malformations resulting from aberrant development of neural crest cells. The Reduced folate carrier (RFC) is a membrane-bound receptor for facilitating transfer of reduced folate into the cells. RFC knockout mice are embryonic lethal and develop multiple malformations, including neurocristopathies. Here we show that XRFC is specifically expressed in neural crest tissues in Xenopus embryos and knockdown of XRFC by specific morpholino results in severe neurocristopathies. Inhibition of RFC blocked the expression of a series of neural crest marker genes while overexpression of RFC or injection of 5-methyltetrahydrofolate expanded the neural crest territories. In animal cap assays, knockdown of RFC dramatically reduced the mono- and trimethyl-Histone3-K4 levels and co-injection of the lysine methyltransferase hMLL1 largely rescued the XRFC morpholino phenotype. Our data revealed that the RFC mediated folate metabolic pathway likely potentiates neural crest gene expression through epigenetic modifications.

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