GENETIC STUDY: Significant impact of MTHFR C677T polymorphism on plasma homovanillic acid (HVA) levels among alcohol-dependent patients

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The enzyme 5,10-methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR) synthesizes 5-methyltetrahydrofolate. It plays a critical role in homocysteine metabolism. A high impact of MTHFR C677T polymorphism on plasma homocysteine levels has been observed among alcoholics. Recent studies indicate that homocysteine has toxic effects on dopaminergic neurons. Thus it lowers levels of homovanillic acid (HVA) in the striatal region in rats. Alcoholics had significantly lower plasma HVA concentrations compared with healthy controls. Aim of this study is to elucidate whether HVA plasma levels in alcoholics are influenced by MTHFR C677T polymorphism. A total of 142 alcohol-dependent patients and 101 healthy controls were examined regarding plasma HVA concentration and MTHFR C677T genotype. Blood samples of alcoholics were obtained after a minimum of 22 days of abstinence. Among alcohol-dependent patients MTHFR C677T polymorphism was significantly associated with plasma HVA levels: carriers of MTHFR C677T T-allele had significantly lower HVA plasma levels compared with homozygote carriers of C-allele: 11.9 ng/ml versus 14.4 ng/ml (χ2: 5.39; P = 0.02). In healthy control subjects plasma HVA levels did not differ significantly between MTHFR C677T T-allele carriers and homozygote carriers of C-allele: 15.1 ng/ml versus 15.3 ng/ml (χ2: 0.04; P = 0.82). The data suggest an influence of MTHFR C677T polymorphism on plasma HVA among alcohol-dependent patients. This might be due to neurotoxic effects of homocysteine on the dopaminergic system or direct impairment of monoamine metabolism. Future studies should try to elucidate whether this effect is reversible during alcohol abstinence.

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