An evidence-based approach to globally assess the covariate-dependent effect of the MTHFR single nucleotide polymorphism rs1801133 on blood homocysteine: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Am J Clin Nutr. 2018 May 1;107(5):817-825. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/nqy035.


Background: The single nucleotide polymorphism of the gene 5,10-methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR) C677T (or rs1801133) is the most established genetic factor that increases plasma total homocysteine (tHcy) and consequently results in hyperhomocysteinemia. Yet, given the limited penetrance of this genetic variant, it is necessary to individually predict the risk of hyperhomocysteinemia for an rs1801133 carrier.

Objective: We hypothesized that variability in this genetic risk is largely due to the presence of factors (covariates) that serve as effect modifiers, confounders, or both, such as folic acid (FA) intake, and aimed to assess this risk in the complex context of these covariates.

Design: We systematically extracted from published studies the data on tHcy, rs1801133, and any previously reported rs1801133 covariates. The resulting metadata set was first used to analyze the covariates' modifying effect by meta-regression and other statistical means. Subsequently, we controlled for this modifying effect by genotype-stratifying tHcy data and analyzed the variability in the risk resulting from the confounding of covariates.

Results: The data set contains data on 36 rs1801133 covariates that were collected from 114,799 participants and 256 qualified studies, among which 6 covariates (sex, age, race, FA intake, smoking, and alcohol consumption) are the most frequently informed and therefore included for statistical analysis. The effect of rs1801133 on tHcy exhibits significant variability that can be attributed to effect modification as well as confounding by these covariates. Via statistical modeling, we predicted the covariate-dependent risk of tHcy elevation and hyperhomocysteinemia in a systematic manner.

Conclusions: We showed an evidence-based approach that globally assesses the covariate-dependent effect of rs1801133 on tHcy. The results should assist clinicians in interpreting the rs1801133 data from genetic testing for their patients. Such information is also important for the public, who increasingly receive genetic data from commercial services without interpretation of its clinical relevance. This study was registered at Research Registry with the registration number reviewregistry328.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Evidence-Based Practice
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Enzymologic
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease
  • Homocysteine / blood*
  • Homocysteine / genetics
  • Homocysteine / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Hyperhomocysteinemia / blood
  • Hyperhomocysteinemia / genetics*
  • Methylenetetrahydrofolate Reductase (NADPH2) / genetics*
  • Methylenetetrahydrofolate Reductase (NADPH2) / metabolism*
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide


  • Homocysteine
  • Methylenetetrahydrofolate Reductase (NADPH2)