5,10-Methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR) is an important enzyme in the folate metabolic pathway. Common genetic polymorphisms in the human MTHFR gene are associated with individual variation in the efficacy and toxicity of chemotherapeutic agents, such as methotrexate and 5-fluorouracil. However, the full range of polymorphisms and intragene haplotypes in the human MTHFR gene remains unclear. Furthermore, cellular mechanisms by which common, naturally occurring nonsynonymous coding single nucleotide polymorphisms (cSNPs) might alter the function of this enzyme have not been defined. The present study focused on the systematic identification and investigation of common polymorphisms and haplotypes in the MTHFR gene using a genotype-to-phenotype strategy, followed by functional genomic studies. Specifically, we resequenced exons, splice junctions and portions of the 5'-flanking region (5'-FR) of the human MTHFR gene using 240 DNA samples from four ethnic groups. A total of 65 polymorphisms were observed, 11 of which were nonsynonymous cSNPs. We then performed functional genomic studies with constructs for wild-type and 15 variant allozymes (some with multiple alterations in amino acid sequence) using a mammalian expression system. Activity for the variant allozymes ranged from 13% to 149% of wild-type activity. Levels of immunoreactive protein for the allozymes ranged from 31% to 120% of wild-type and were significantly correlated with enzyme activity (Rp=0.85, P<0.0001), suggesting that a major mechanism by which nonsynonymous cSNPs influence the function of this gene is by alteration in the quantity of protein. These observations represent steps towards an understanding of molecular genetic mechanisms responsible for variation in MTHFR function that may contribute to individual differences in drug efficacy and toxicity, as well as disease risk.