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Polymorphisms in MTHFD1 Gene and Susceptibility to Neural Tube Defects: A Case-Control Study in a Chinese Han Population with Relatively Low Folate Levels

Jian Wu, Yihua Bao, Xiaolin Lu, Lihua Wu, Ting Zhang, Jin Guo, Jian Yang

Section of Physiology and Biochemistry of Exercise, The Capital Institute of Physical Education of China, Beijing, China (mainland)

Med Sci Monit 2015; 21:2630-2637

DOI: 10.12659/MSM.895155

Available online:

Published: 2015-09-04

BACKGROUND: The polymorphism of methylenetetrahydrofolate dehydrogenase (MTHFD1) has been reported as a risk factor for neural tube defects (NTDs). In the present study, we aimed to investigate whether the single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) of MTHFD1 gene are associated with NTDs in a Chinese population and to determine their mechanism of action.
MATERIAL AND METHODS: MTHFD1 gene was scanned in a total of 270 NTDs cases and 192 healthy controls by using next-generation sequencing (NGS) method. After quality control procedures, 208 selected SNP sites in MTHFD1 gene were enrolled for follow-up statistical association analyses. Functional analyses were also performed for significant SNPs through bioinformatics analysis. Folic acid levels of brain tissue in available NTDs cases and healthy controls (113 and 123, respectively) were measured. Statistical and bioinformatics analyses were performed to investigate the relationship between SNPs in MTHFD1 and susceptibility to NTDs.
RESULTS: Statistical analysis showed that 2 independent SNPs, rs1956545 and rs56811449, confer the risk of NTDs (P value=0.0195, OR (odds ratio)=1.41, 95% CI (confidence interval)=1.06–1.88; P value=0.0107, OR=0.56, 95% CI=0.36–0.87). The haplotype GGGG, which consists of 4 SNPs (rs2236225, rs2236224, rs1256146, and rs6573559), is also associated with risk of NTDs (P value=0.0438, OR=0.7180, 95% CI=0.5214–0.9888). The risk allele C of rs1956545 is also associated with decreased folic acid levels in the brain (P value=0.0222, standard beta=–0.2238, 95% CI=–0.4128 – –0.0349) according to analysis in the subset of NTDs cases and healthy controls. Bioinformatics analysis indicates that rs1956545 and rs56811449 are within ENCODE regulatory regions, the open chromatin regions of blastula Trophoblast cell line, and histone-marked region of brain astrocyte cell line.
CONCLUSIONS: The polymorphism of SNP loci rs1956545 and rs56811449 as well as a haplotype in MTHFD1 gene could serve as an indicator for the occurrence of NTDs in Chinese population and some specific genotypes of the loci may have lower risk of developing NTDs.

Keywords: Brain - metabolism, Alleles, Case-Control Studies, China, Computational Biology - methods, Fetus - pathology, Folic Acid - chemistry, Genetic Predisposition to Disease, Haplotypes, High-Throughput Nucleotide Sequencing, Methylenetetrahydrofolate Dehydrogenase (NADP) - genetics, Neural Tube Defects - genetics, Odds Ratio, Polymorphism, Genetic, Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide, Quality Control, Risk Factors, Stillbirth