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MTHFR ABSTRACTS: Homocysteine and risk of premature coronary heart disease. Evidence for a common gene mutation.

Gallagher PM, Meleady R, Shields DC, Tan KS, McMaster D, Rozen R, Evans A, Graham IM, Whitehead AS Department of Genetics, Trinity College, Dublin 2, Ireland. [Circulation 1996 Nov 1;94(9):2154-8]

BACKGROUND: Plasma homocysteine levels are modulated by nutritional and genetic factors, among which is the enzyme methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR). A common defective (thermolabile) variant of this enzyme is causally associated with elevated plasma homocysteine, itself an independent risk factor for coronary heart disease.

METHODS AND RESULTS: To examine the hypothesis that the allele (T) that codes for the thermolabile defect increases the risk of coronary heart disease, we studied 111 patients with clinical and objective investigational evidence of coronary heart disease and 105 control subjects. The frequencies of the thermolabile defect (T) in patients and control subjects were measured, and the prevalence of elevated plasma total homocysteine according to genotype was assessed. The frequency of the defective allele was higher in patients than in control subjects with an OR of 1.6 (95% CI, 1.1 to 2.4; P = .02). The OR in the coronary heart disease group for the homozygous TT genotype was 2.9 (95% CI, 1.2 to 7.2; P = .02); 17% of patients and 7% of control subjects had the TT genotype. Plasma total homocysteine levels were significantly associated with disease status, a relationship that matched the strength of the association between disease and homozygous inheritance of the defective enzyme.

CONCLUSIONS: Homozygotes for the defective allele (T) are at increased risk of premature coronary heart disease. MTHFR, which modulates basal plasma homocysteine concentration, is folate dependent, and dietary supplementation or fortification with folic acid may reduce plasma homocysteine levels and consequent coronary risk in a significant proportion of the general population.

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