Folate metabolism and neural tube defects: a review.


Steegers-Theunissen RP




Eur J Obstet Gynecol Reprod Biol


The importance of folate in normal fetal development and wellbeing has been recognized only during the past three decades and knowledge concerned is still far from complete. In man, folate acts as a substrate in the transfer of one-carbon moieties and thereby, plays an essential role in the synthesis of several amino acids such as methionine and nucleic acids. Consequently, folate requirements are related to the amount of tissue growth. Epidemiological, clinical and teratological research showed that this B-vitamin is particularly involved in the prevention and pathogenesis of neural tube defects. Therefore, in this review the metabolism of folate has been outlined. Furthermore, the characteristics of the various genically determined folate 'deficiencies' as well as a possible biochemical explanation of the relationship between folate and neural tube defects are being discussed. Finally, the new recommendations launched in November 1993 by the Dutch Health Council as well as the Food and Nutrition Council with regard to folate supplementation in the prevention of neural tube defects are presented.