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Keywords:

  • betaine-homocysteine methyltransferase (BHMT/BHMT2);
  • gene polymorphism;
  • spina bifida;
  • cleft;
  • birth defects;
  • folate;
  • homocysteine

Abstract

Abnormalities in folate and/or homocysteine metabolism may adversely influence embryonic development, leading to the birth of infants with a variety of congenital malformations, including neural tube defects (NTDs) and craniofacial abnormalities. Based upon suggestive evidence that periconceptional folic acid supplementation is effective in preventing a significant proportion of the aforementioned birth defects, genetic variation in the folate biosynthetic pathways may influence the infant's susceptibility to these birth defects. The goal of our study was to investigate sequence variations in the betaine-homocysteine methyltransferase (BHMT) and betaine-homocysteine methyltransferase (BHMT2) genes as modifiers of risk of spina bifida, cleft palate, and cleft lip and palate. The results of this study indicated that individuals homozygous for the single nucleotide polymorphism R239Q in BHMT did not have elevated risks for spina bifida. Genotype frequencies for the BHMT2 rs626105 polymorphism also did not reveal any elevated risks for spina bifida, and only a modest, imprecise elevation of risk for orofacial clefts. The results of these experiments suggest that variants of the BHMT/BHMT2 genes in infants do not substantially contribute to the risk of spina bifida or orofacial clefts in our study population. © 2005 Wiley-Liss, Inc.