Congenital errors of folate metabolism

Baillieres Clin Haematol. 1995 Sep;8(3):603-16. doi: 10.1016/s0950-3536(05)80222-7.


Congenital errors of folate metabolism can be related either to defective transport of folate through various cells or to defective intracellular utilization of folate due to some enzyme deficiencies. Defective transport of folate across the intestine and the blood-brain barrier was reported in the condition 'Congenital Malabsorption of Folate'. This disease is characterized by a severe megaloblastic anaemia of early appearance associated with mental retardation. Anaemia is folate-responsive, but neurological symptoms are only poorly improved because of the inability to maintain adequate levels of folate in the CSF. A familial defect of cellular uptake was described in a family with a high frequency of aplastic anaemia or leukaemia. An isolated defect in folate transport into CSF was identified in a patient suffering from a cerebellar syndrome and pyramidal tract dysfunction. Among enzyme deficiencies, some are well documented, others still putative. Methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase deficiency is the most common. The main clinical findings are neurological signs (mental retardation, seizures, rarely schizophrenic syndromes) or vascular disease, without any haematological abnormality. Low levels of folate in serum, red blood cells and CSF associated with homocystinuria are constant. Methionine synthase deficiency is characterized by a megaloblastic anaemia occurring early in life that is more or less folate-responsive and associated with mental retardation. Glutamate formiminotransferase-cyclodeaminase deficiency is responsible for massive excretion of formiminoglutamic acid but megaloblastic anaemia is not constant. The clinical findings are a more or less severe mental or physical retardation. Dihydrofolate reductase deficiency was reported in three children presenting with a megaloblastic anaemia a few days or weeks after birth, which responded to folinic acid. The possible relationship between congenital disorders such as neural tube defects or dihydropteridine reductase deficiency and disturbances of folate metabolism are discussed. Neurological symptoms present in most of these congenital disorders highlight the role of folate in the central nervous system.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Folic Acid / genetics
  • Folic Acid / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Metabolism, Inborn Errors / genetics*
  • Pregnancy


  • Folic Acid