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 Team discovers how bacteria exploit a chink in the body's armor
20.01.2017 | University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

nachricht Rabies viruses reveal wiring in transparent brains
19.01.2017 | Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn

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: Traffic jam in empty space

New success for Konstanz physicists in studying the quantum vacuum

An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...

Im Focus: How gut bacteria can make us ill

HZI researchers decipher infection mechanisms of Yersinia and immune responses of the host

Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...

Im Focus: Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.

While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...

Im Focus: Studying fundamental particles in materials

Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales

Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...

Im Focus: Designing Architecture with Solar Building Envelopes

Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.

As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Sustainable Water use in Agriculture in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

19.01.2017 | Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Helmholtz International Fellow Award for Sarah Amalia Teichmann

20.01.2017 | Awards Funding

An innovative high-performance material: biofibers made from green lacewing silk

20.01.2017 | Materials Sciences

Ion treatments for cardiac arrhythmia — Non-invasive alternative to catheter-based surgery

20.01.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>