Hyperhomocysteinemia is frequent in hemodialysis patients and represents an independent risk factor for vascular disease in these patients. Elevated total homocysteine (tHcy) plasma levels can results from defective remethylation of Hcy to methionine due to decreased activity of the enzyme methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR). A genetic aberration in the MTHFR gene (677 C to T substitution) has been shown to result in reduced MTHFR activity. We tested the hypothesis that elevation of tHcy plasma levels in hemodialysis patients is influenced by the 677 C to T mutation of the MTHFR gene and examined the relation of the genotype with tHcy, folate and vitamin B12 plasma levels in these patients. The allelic frequency of the MTHFR mutation was evaluated in 203 patients maintained on chronic hemodialysis treatment. Total Hcy, folate, vitamin B12 levels and the MTHFR mutation were analyzed in 69 of the 203 patients and in 69 age- and sex-matched healthy control subjects. The allelic frequency of the 677 C to T transition in the MTHFR gene in hemodialysis patients was 34.7% versus 35.5% in healthy controls. Of 203 patients 26 (12.8%) were homozygous for the mutation (+/+) versus 10.2% in healthy subjects. The heterozygous (+/-) genotype was identified in 43.8% of patients versus 50.7% in controls. The mean tHcy level in hemodialysis patients was 28.7 +/- 11.0 mumol/liter versus 10.0 +/- 3.0 mumol/liter in control subjects. The mean tHcy levels were 36.4 +/- 13.4 mumol/liter in (+/+) patients and 12.2 +/- 4.5 mumol/liter in (+/+) controls, 28.7 +/- 10.8 mumol/liter in (+/-) patients and 9.9 +/- 2.7 mumol/liter in (+/-) controls and 25.4 +/- 8.5 mumol/liter in (-/-) hemodialysis patients versus 9.7 +/- 2.8 mumol/liter in (-/-) controls: There was no significant difference of folate and vitamin B12 concentrations in patients and controls with different MTHFR genotypes. Analysis of covariance including age, gender, folate concentrations, vitamin B12 levels, albumin and creatinine as covariables revealed a significant influence of the (+/+) genotype, albumin and folate status on tHcy levels in hemodialysis patients. Together, our data demonstrate that the extent of hyperhomocysteinemia in hemodialysis patients is not only the result of uremia or folate status, but is also genetically determined by the (+/+) MTHFR genotype. The presence of the 677 C to T mutation in the MTHFR gene does not appear to represent a risk factor for development of end-stage renal disease.