Background: Methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR) synthesizes 5-methyltetrahydrofolate, the major carbon donor in remethylation of homocysteine to methionine. A common MTHFR mutation, an alanine-to-valine substitution, renders the enzyme thermolabile and may cause elevated plasma levels of the amino acid homocysteine.
Methods and results: To assess the potential interaction between this mutation and vitamin coenzymes in homocysteine metabolism, we screened 365 individuals from the NHLBI Family Heart Study. Among individuals with lower plasma folate concentrations ( < 15.4 nmol/L), those with the homozygous mutant genotype had total fasting homocysteine levels that were 24% greater (P<.05) than individuals with the normal genotype. A difference between genotypes was not seen among individuals with folate levels > or = 15.4 nmol/L.
Conclusions: Individuals with thermolabile MTHFR may have a higher folate requirement for regulation of plasma homocysteine concentrations; folate supplementation may be necessary to prevent fasting hyperhomocysteinemia in such persons.