Several studies have indicated that mild to moderate hyperhomocystinemia is a common cause of arterial occlusive disease. Whether hyperhomocystinemia per se is an independent risk factor for vein thromboembolism (VTE) is still somewhat controversial. Both genetic and nutritional factors influence plasma homocysteine levels. Therefore, we evaluated plasma total homocysteine (tHcy), folate, and vitamin B12 levels and established, by polymerase chain reaction, the presence of the C677T mutation (A223V) in the methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR) gene in 220 cases with VTE without well-established prothrombotic defects. As a control group, 220 healthy subjects from the same geographic area as the cases were investigated. Hyperhomocystinemia was defined as a plasma tHcy level above the 95th percentile in the controls (18.05 micromol/L). Hyperhomocystinemia was found in 16% of cases (odds ratio=3.59; P<0.001); deficiencies of folate (<2.47 ng/mL) or vitamin B12 (<165 pg/mL), defined as values below the 5th percentile in controls, were found in 17.7% (P<0.001) and 12.3% (P=0.015) of cases, respectively. The homozygous condition for the MTHFR mutation (VV) was present in 28.2% of cases and 17.7% of controls (odds ratio=1.82; P=0.013). Comparing only the idiopathic forms of VTE (n=80/220; 36.3%) with normal controls, individuals with hyperhomocystinemia, or individuals homozygous for MTHFR mutation increased the odds ratios to 4.03 (P=0.005) and 2.11 (P=0.018), respectively. No statistically significant difference was observed in the MTHFR genotype distribution of cases and controls with hyperhomocystinemia (P=0.386); however, the normal MTHFR genotype (AA) appeared in control subjects only when tHcy levels were below the 80th percentile (10.57 micromol/L) of the distribution, whereas in case patients, it was present at the highest tHcy levels. A strong association between mutated homozygosity (VV), low folate levels, and hyperhomocystinemia was found in both groups. We conclude that in patients with VTE who do not have coexisting prothrombotic defects, hyperhomocystinemia increases the risk of developing idiopathic and venous thrombosis; the homozygous condition for the MTHFR mutation confers a moderate risk but, together with low folate levels, it is the main determinant of mild hyperhomocystinemia in normal and thromboembolic populations
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