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Keywords:

  • cystathionine beta-synthase;
  • gene–environment interactions;
  • methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase;
  • neural tube defects

Folate supplementation appears to reduce the risk for neural tube defects (NTDs). Methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR) is a candidate gene in the folate metabolism pathway that has been extensively studied in different human populations. We examined the risk associated with having the thermolabile variant (TT) of MTHFR in a study of 175 American Caucasians with NTDs and their families. We found a significant association in patients compared with 195 unrelated controls [odds ratio (OR) = 2.13, 95% confidence interval (95% CI) = 1.11–4.09)], but not in mothers (OR = 1.29, 95% CI = 0.622–2.67) or in fathers (OR = 1.45, 95% CI = 0.681–3.09). We found no evidence for unequal transmission from parents to an affected child (p > 0.10). We failed to find a previously reported association for a combined haplotype for MTHFR and cystathionine β-synthase, except in subjects with NTDs compared with 559 pooled controls (OR = 2.87, 95% CI = 1.03–8.03). We found no evidence for an association for a novel CA-repeat polymorphism identified in a gene closely linked to MTHFR (p > 0.10). Our studies continue to suggest that additional candidate genes other than MTHFR may be responsible for an increased risk to NTD in some American Caucasian families.