Thermolabile MTHFR genotype and retinal vascular occlusive disease.
BACKGROUND: Raised levels of total plasma homocysteine (tHcy) are associated with an increased risk of retinal vascular occlusive disease. A thermolabile form of a pivotal enzyme in homocysteine metabolism, methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR), has been associated with vascular occlusive disease and raised tHcy levels. The relation between thermolabile MTHFR genotype, tHcy, and retinal vascular occlusive disease has not been determined. METHODS: A retrospective case-control study involving hospital based controls and cases with retinal vascular occlusions in whom tHcy levels had been determined was undertaken. Genotyping for the MTHFR 677 C-T mutation that specifies the thermolabile form of the enzyme was performed by established methods in all subjects. The relation between homozygosity for thermolabile MTHFR genotype (TT), raised tHcy levels, and risk of retinal vascular occlusive disease was examined. RESULTS: 87 cases of retinal vascular occlusive disease (mean age 68.7 years) comprising 26 cases of retinal artery occlusion and 61 of retinal vein occlusion were compared with 87 controls (mean age 70.2 years). The TT genotype did not confer a significantly increased risk of retinal vascular occlusive disease. The mean tHcy level was significantly higher in the cases than in the controls (p<0.0001). Overall, and in both the cases and controls, the frequency of the TT genotype was higher in those with normal tHcy levels than in those with increased levels of tHcy. However, the TT genotype did not significantly alter the risk of increased tHcy levels in these patients. CONCLUSIONS: The TT genotype is not associated with an increased risk of retinal vascular occlusive disease or increased tHcy levels in this group of elderly patients. In older patients, nutritional rather than genetic factors may be more important in increasing tHcy levels, a known risk factor for retinal vascular occlusive disease.