Photoperiod at conception predicts C677T-MTHFR genotype: A novel gene-environment interaction



Data is presented, which suggest that the day length a woman experiences during the periconceptional period predicts the C677T-MTHFR genotype of her child. Logistic regression analysis involving 375 neonates born in the same geographical location within a three year period demonstrated that photoperiod (minutes) at conception predicts both genotype (P = 0.0139) and mutant allele carriage (P = 0.0161); the trend clearly showing that the 677T-MTHFR allele frequency increases as photoperiod increases. We propose a number of explanations, including a hypothesis in which a long photoperiod around conception decreases maternal systemic folate because of UVA induced dermal oxidative degradation of 5-methyl-H4folate, leading to a lower cellular 5,10-methylene-H4folate status. In this scenario, 5,10-methylene-H4folate would be more efficiently used for dTMP and DNA synthesis by 677T-MTHFR embryos than wildtype embryos giving the 677T-MTHFR embryos increased viability, and hence increasing mutant T-allele frequency. Alternate hypotheses include: increased seasonal availability of folate rich foods that genetically buffer any negative effect of 677T-MTHFR in embryos; seasonal oxidative stress lowering embryo-toxic homocysteine; an undefined hormonal effect of photoperiod on the neuroendocrine axis, which mediates genotype/embryo selection. The effect of photoperiod on genotype seems clear, but the speculative molecular mechanism underpinning the effect needs careful examination. Am. J. Hum. Biol., 2010. © 2010 Wiley-Liss, Inc.