Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Lack of key enzyme in the metabolism of folic acid leads to birth defects

18.01.2013
Researchers at The University of Texas at Austin have discovered that the lack of a critical enzyme in the folic acid metabolic pathway leads to neural tube birth defects in developing embryos.

It has been known for several decades that folic acid supplementation dramatically reduces the incidence of neural tube defects, such as spina bifida and anencephaly, which are among the most common birth defects. In some populations, folic acid supplementation has decreased neural tube defects by as much as 70 percent.

However, scientists still do not fully understand how folic acid decreases neural tube defects, or why folic acid supplementation does not eliminate birth defects in all pregnancies.

"Now, we've found that mutation of a key folic acid enzyme causes neural tube defects in mice," said Dean Appling, professor of biochemistry in the College of Natural Sciences. "This is the clearest mechanistic link yet between folic acid and birth defects."

Appling and his colleagues published their research in the Jan. 8 issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

The scientists made the discovery using mice that lack a gene for a folic acid enzyme called Mthfd1l, which is required for cells to produce a metabolite called formate. Embryos need formate to develop normally.

"This work reveals that one of the ways that folic acid prevents birth defects is by ensuring the production of formate in the developing embryo," said Appling, "and it may explain those 30 percent of neural tube defects that cannot be prevented by folic acid supplementation."

Appling said that the mice provide researchers with a strong model system that they can use to further understand folic acid and its role in birth defects in humans. In fact, humans share the same gene for the folic acid enzyme with the mouse and all other mammals. Indeed, it has recently been discovered that point mutations in that human gene increase the risk of birth defects.

Appling said that he and his colleagues would like to use the mouse system to begin looking for nutrients that could be delivered to pregnant mothers to prevent those neural tube defects that cannot be prevented by folic acid.

Ultimately, women could someday be screened for the gene that produces the enzyme. If they are deficient, steps could be taken to improve their chances for developing embryos free of neural tube defects through further nutrient supplementation.

Folic acid was discovered at The University of Texas at Austin in the 1940s by biochemists Esmond Snell and Herschel Mitchell. The U.S. has fortified all enriched cereal grain products with folic acid since 1996 to ensure that women of childbearing age receive adequate quantities of the vitamin.

Postdoctoral researcher Jessica Momb and graduate student Jordan Lewandowski were largely responsible for this research. Co-authors include graduate student Joshua Bryant, researcher Rebecca Fitch, researcher Deborah Surman, and Steven Vokes, assistant professor of biology.

Additional contact:
Lee Clippard, media relations
512-232-0675
clippard@austin.utexas.edu

Dean Appling, professor | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.utexas.edu

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht TSRI researchers develop new method to 'fingerprint' HIV
29.03.2017 | Scripps Research Institute

nachricht Periodic ventilation keeps more pollen out than tilted-open windows
29.03.2017 | Technische Universität München

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: A Challenging European Research Project to Develop New Tiny Microscopes

The Institute of Semiconductor Technology and the Institute of Physical and Theoretical Chemistry, both members of the Laboratory for Emerging Nanometrology (LENA), at Technische Universität Braunschweig are partners in a new European research project entitled ChipScope, which aims to develop a completely new and extremely small optical microscope capable of observing the interior of living cells in real time. A consortium of 7 partners from 5 countries will tackle this issue with very ambitious objectives during a four-year research program.

To demonstrate the usefulness of this new scientific tool, at the end of the project the developed chip-sized microscope will be used to observe in real-time...

Im Focus: Giant Magnetic Fields in the Universe

Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.

The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.

Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...

Im Focus: Tracing down linear ubiquitination

Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.

Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...

Im Focus: Perovskite edges can be tuned for optoelectronic performance

Layered 2D material improves efficiency for solar cells and LEDs

In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...

Im Focus: Polymer-coated silicon nanosheets as alternative to graphene: A perfect team for nanoelectronics

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

International Land Use Symposium ILUS 2017: Call for Abstracts and Registration open

20.03.2017 | Event News

CONNECT 2017: International congress on connective tissue

14.03.2017 | Event News

ICTM Conference: Turbine Construction between Big Data and Additive Manufacturing

07.03.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Researchers shoot for success with simulations of laser pulse-material interactions

29.03.2017 | Materials Sciences

Igniting a solar flare in the corona with lower-atmosphere kindling

29.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

As sea level rises, much of Honolulu and Waikiki vulnerable to groundwater inundation

29.03.2017 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>