Carnitine palmitoyltransferase 1A (CPT1A), encoded by the gene CPT1A, is the hepatic isoform of CPT1 and is a major regulatory point in long-chain fatty acid oxidation. CPT1A deficiency confers risk for hypoketotic hypoglycaemia, hepatic encephalopathy, seizures, and sudden unexpected death in infancy (SUDI). It remains controversial whether the CPT1A gene variant, c.1436C>T (p.P479L), identified in Inuit, First Nations, and Alaska Native infants, causes susceptibility to decompensation, in particular during times of fever and intercurrent illness. Although newborn screening for the P479L variant occurs in some jurisdictions, background knowledge about the presence of the variant in Canadian Aboriginal populations is lacking. In an effort to understand the population implications of the variant in northern Canada, overall frequencies of the variant were assessed. Further studies are underway to determine associated risk. Ethics approval was obtained from university REBs, local research institutes, and with consultation with territorial Aboriginal groups. Newborn screening blood spots from all infants born in 2006 in the three territories were genotyped for the p.P479L variant. p.P479L (c.1436C>T) allele frequencies in the three territories were 0.02, 0.08, and 0.77 in Yukon (n=325), Northwest Territories (n=564), and Nunavut (n=695), respectively. Homozygosity rates were 0%, 3%, and 64%. Aboriginal status was available only in NWT, with allele frequencies of 0.04, 0.44, 0.00, and 0.01 for First Nations, Inuvialuit/Inuit, Métis, and non-Aboriginal populations. Although individual blood spots were not identified for Aboriginal ethnicity in Nunavut infants, ~90% of infants in Nunavut are born to Inuit women. The allele frequency and rate of homozygosity for the CPT1A P479L variant were high in Inuit and Inuvialuit who reside in northern coastal regions. The variant is present at a low frequency in First Nations populations, who reside in areas less coastal than the Inuit or Inuvialuit in the two western territories. The significance of the population and geographic distribution remains unclear, but the high population frequencies of the variant suggest a historically low penetrance for adverse outcomes. Further evidence is needed to determine if there is an increased risk for infant mortality and morbidity and whether newborn screening will be indicated on a population basis.
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