The gene for apolipoprotein E (APOE) is polymorphic, and its variant APOE4 is a major risk factor for the development of Alzheimer-type dementia (AD). Another risk factor for AD appears to be negative cobalamin balance, which is very common in elderly people. Cobalamin and folate are interdependent and essential components of the one-carbon metabolism. Another important component is methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR), the gene for which is also polymorphic. Thermolabile MTHFR (tMTHFR), a gene variant that reduces the activity of its enzyme, is common in the general population. In the present study, 75% of 140 AD patients had at least one APOE4 allele. The numbers of APOE4 and tMTHFR alleles correlated significantly with the serum folate levels, however, in opposite directions. The significance of this was augmented by an inverse correlation between APOE4 and tMTHFR. Thus, not only MTHFR but also APOE appears to be related to the one-carbon metabolism, suggesting that APOE4 and insufficient one-carbon metabolism may be synergistic risk factors for AD.
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