Folic acid can prevent neural tube defects; in some cases the mechanism is probably a correction of a metabolic defect caused by thermolabile methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR) found in increased frequency in cases. It is less clear whether folic acid can prevent oral clefts, in part because it is not known whether thermolabile MTHFR is more common in those with oral clefts. This study examined the prevalence of the mutation (677 C-->T) that causes thermolabile MTHFR in subjects with oral clefts from a national Irish support group, and an anonymous control group randomly selected from a neonatal screening program covering all births in Ireland. Eighty-three of 848 control subjects were homozygous (TT) thermolabile MTHFR (9.8%). This defect was almost three times as common in the 27 subjects (25.9%) with isolated cleft palate (odds ratio 3.23, 95% confidence interval 1.32 -7.86, P = 0. 02) and somewhat more common in the 66 subjects with cleft lip with or without cleft palate (15.2%, odds ratio 1.65, 95% confidence interval 0.81-3.35, P = 0.20). When the two groups with different etiologies were combined, the overall odds ratio was 2.06 (95% confidence interval 1.16-3.66, P = 0.02). In the Irish population homozygosity for the common folate-related polymorphism associated with thermolabile MTHFR is significantly more frequent in those with isolated cleft palate, and could be etiologically important. Am. J. Med. Genet. 86:71-74, 1999. Published 1999 Wiley-Liss, Inc.