Neural tube defects (NTDs) have been associated with abnormalities of folate metabolism. Methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR) is the regulatory enzyme for the conversion of homocysteine to methionine. The C677T mutation in the MTHFR gene affects folate distribution, and homozygosity for the T allele may be associated with an increased risk of NTDs. A second mutation, an A1298C transversion in this same gene, is also associated with an increased risk for NTDs but only in conjunction with the 677T allele. A low incidence of NTDs has been observed in high-altitude populations; however, these studies did not provide information about the allele distribution of genes involved in folate metabolism. This investigation compares allele frequencies of the C677T and A1298C polymorphisms between Quechua people living at 3200-4200 m in the Peruvian Central Andes and an Aché group living at low altitude. Allele frequencies at both loci were not significantly different between the two populations. The absence of the 677T/677T genotypes and of the 677T/1298C arrangement in both groups may indicate a genetic contribution to reduced risk for NTDs; however, factors other than altitude are likely responsible for the low variant allele frequencies in these populations.
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