UV-associated decline in systemic folate: implications for human nutrigenetics, health, and evolutionary processes

Mark Lucock, Emma Beckett, Charlotte Martin, Patrice Jones, John Furst, Zoe Yates, Nina G. Jablonski, George Chaplin, Martin Veysey

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29 Scopus citations


Objectives: The purpose of this study was to examine whether UV exposure alters folate status according to C677T-MTHFR genotype, and to consider the relevance of this to human health and the evolutionary model of skin pigmentation. Methods: Total Ozone Mapping Spectrometer (TOMS) satellite data were used to examine surface UV-irradiance, as a marker of UV exposure, in a large (n = 649) Australian cross-sectional study population. PCR/RFLP analysis was used to genotype C677T-MTHFR. Results: Overall, cumulative UV-irradiance (42 and 120 days pre-clinic) was significantly negatively related to red cell folate (RCF) levels. When the cohort was stratified by MTHFR-C677T genotype, the relationship between UV-irradiance (42 days pre-clinic) and RCF remained significant only in the cohorts containing carriers of the T allele. Statistically significant z-score statistics and interaction terms from genotype and UV-irradiance (p-interaction) demonstrated that genotype did modify the effect of UV-irradiance on RCF, with the largest effect of UV being demonstrated in the 677TT-MTHFR subjects. Conclusions: Data provide strong evidence that surface UV-irradiance reduces long-term systemic folate levels, and that this is influenced by the C677T-MTHFR gene variant. We speculate this effect may be due to 677TT-MTHFR individuals containing more 5,10CH2-H4PteGlu, and that this folate form may be particularly UV labile. Since UV-irradiance lowers RCF in an MTHFR genotype-specific way, there are likely implications for human health and the evolution of skin pigmentation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere22929
JournalAmerican Journal of Human Biology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 1 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Anatomy
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Anthropology
  • Genetics


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