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MTHFR variants reduce the risk of G:C->A:T transition mutations within the p53 tumor suppressor gene in colon tumors

5,10-Methylene-tetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR) is a key enzyme in folate-mediated 1-carbon metabolism. Reduced MTHFR activity has been associated with genomic DNA hypomethylation. Methylated cytosines at CpG sites are easily mutated and have been implicated in G:C–>A:T transitions in the p53 tumor suppressor gene. We investigated 2 polymorphisms in the MTHFR gene (C677T and A1298C) and their associations with colon tumor characteristics, including acquired mutations in Ki-ras and p53 genes and microsatellite instability (MSI). The study population comprised 1248 colon cancer cases and 1972 controls, who participated in a population-based case-control study and had been analyzed previously for MSI, acquired mutations in Ki-ras, p53, and germline MTHFR polymorphisms. Multivariable-adjusted odds ratios are presented. Overall, MTHFR genotypes were not associated with MSI status or the presence of any p53 or Ki-ras mutation. Individuals with homozygous variant MTHFR genotypes had a significantly reduced risk of G:C–>A:T transition mutations within the p53 gene, yet, as hypothesized, only at CpG-associated sites [677TT vs. 677CC (referent group) OR = 0.4 (95% CI: 0.1-0.8) for CpG-associated sites; OR = 1.5 (0.7-3.6) for non-CpG associated sites]. Genotypes conferring reduced MTHFR activity were associated with a decreased risk of acquired G:C–>A:T mutations within the p53 gene occurring at CpG sites. Consistent with evidence on the phenotypic effect of the MTHFR C677T variant, we hypothesize that this relation may be explained by modestly reduced genomic DNA methylation, resulting in a lower probability of spontaneous deamination of methylated cytosine to thymidine. These results suggest a novel mechanism by which MTHFR polymorphisms can affect the risk of colon cancer.

Authors: Ulrich CM; Curtin K; Samowitz W; Bigler J; Potter JD; Caan B; Slattery ML

J Nutr. 2005 Oct;135(10):2462-7.

PubMed abstract

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