Purpose: Maternal folate intake has reduced the incidence of human neural tube defects by 60-70 %. However, 30-40 % of cases remain nonresponsive to folate intake. The main purpose of this study was to understand the molecular mechanism of folate nonresponsiveness in a mouse model of neural tube defect.
Methods: We used a folate-nonresponsive Fkbp8 knockout mouse model to elucidate the molecular mechanism(s) of folate nonresponsiveness. Neurospheres were grown from neural stem cells isolated from the lumbar neural tube of E9.5 Fkbp8 (-/-) and wild-type embryos. Immunostaining was used to determine the protein levels of oligodendrocyte transcription factor 2 (Olig2), Nkx6.1, class III beta-tubulin (TuJ1), O4, glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP), histone H3 Lys27 trimethylation (H3K27me3), ubiquitously transcribed tetratricopeptide repeat (UTX), and Msx2, and quantitative real-time (RT)-PCR was used to determine the message levels of Olig2, Nkx6.1, Msx2, and noggin in neural stem cells differentiated in the presence and absence of folic acid.
Results: Fkbp8 (-/-)-derived neural stem cells showed (i) increased noggin expression; (ii) decreased Msx2 expression; (iii) premature differentiation--neurogenesis, oligodendrogenesis (Olig2 expression), and gliogenesis (GFAP expression); and (iv) increased UTX expression and decreased H3K27me3 polycomb modification. Exogenous folic acid did not reverse these markers.
Conclusions: Folate nonresponsiveness could be attributed in part to increased noggin expression in Fkbp8 (-/-) embryos, resulting in decreased Msx2 expression. Folate treatment further increases Olig2 and noggin expression, thereby exacerbating ventralization.