The enzyme 5,10-methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR) is involved in folate metabolism. The MTHFR gene is located on chromosome 1 (1p36.3), and two common alleles, the C677T (thermolabile) allele and the A1298C allele, have been described. The population frequency of C677T homozygosity ranges from 1% or less among Blacks from Africa and the United States to 20% or more among Italians and US Hispanics. C677T homozygosity in infants is associated with a moderately increased risk for spina bifida (pooled odds ratio = 1.8; 95% confidence interval: 1.4, 2.2). Maternal C677T homozygosity also appears to be a moderate risk factor (pooled odds ratio = 2.0; 95% confidence interval: 1.5, 2.8). The A 1298C allele combined with the C677T allele also could be associated with an increased risk for spina bifida. Some data suggest that the risk for spina bifida associated with C677T homozygosity may depend on nutritional status (e.g., blood folate levels, intake of vitamins) or on the genotype of other folate-related genes (e.g., cystathionine-beta-synthase and methionine synthase reductase). Studies of the C677T allele in relation to oral clefts, Down syndrome, and fetal anticonvulsant syndrome either have yielded conflicting results or have not been yet replicated.