Background and purpose: ALL is the most common pediatric cancer. The causes of the majority of pediatric acute leukemia are unknown and are likely to involve an interaction between genetic and environmental factors. Therefore, unfavourable gene-environmental interactions might be involved in the genesis of ALL. The aim of this work was to evaluate, in a case-control study, whether the common polymorphisms in 5, 10-methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR) namely (C677T and A1298C) and methionine synthase (MS) (A2756G) genes may play a role in altering susceptibility to pediatric ALL as individual genes and in combination.
Patients and methods: DNA of 88 ALL patients (age < or = 18 years) and 311 healthy control subjects was analyzed for the polymorphisms of MTHFR and MS genes using PCR-RFLP method.
Results: The frequencies of the wild types of MTHFR 677CC, MTHFR 1298AA and MS 2756AA, the homozygous genotypes of MTHFR 677TT, MTHFR 1298CC and MS 2756GG and heterozygous genotypes of MTHFR 677CT and MS 2756AG showed no statistically significant differences between patients and controls. The frequency of the MTHFR 1298AC heterozygous genotype was 25% among patients compared to 45.0% among controls; the difference was found to be statistically significant (p value =0.001, O.R=0.382 & 95% C.I=0.222-0.658). The frequency of the MTHFR1298AC heterozygous genotype plus 1298CC homozygous genotype was 34% among patients compared to 54.3% among controls and the difference was statistically significant (p value =0.001). A synergistic effect of 677CT and1298AC (CTAC) was observed, (p value=0.002) with 3.65 fold protection (OR 0.273 & 95% C.I=0.155-0.9) compared to 2.6 folds for MTHFR 1298AC alone. This protective effect of CTAC polymorphism was abolished when combined with MS 2756AA or AG.
Conclusion: The present study provided further evidence for the protective role of MTHFR 1298AC mutant alleles in acute lymphoblastic leukemia in children (2.6 fold protection). This suggests that folate and methionine metabolism play an important role in the pathogenesis of pediatric ALL. In contrast to the main bulk of literature, we did not find any protective role of either MTHFR C677T or MS A2756G polymorphisms. This may reflect the ethnic variation in both the polymorphism frequencies, variation in plasma level of folate, in addition to the possible role of gene-environment interaction mainly dietary availability of folate. The synergistic effect of MTHFR 1298AC and 677CT and its abolishment by MS 2756AA or AG further emphasizes that the interaction of genes, rather than the polymorphism in any single one, determines risk susceptibility to disease.