We examined the effects of feeding rats a choline deficient diet, of treating rats with low doses of methotrexate (MTX, 0.1 mg/kg, daily), and of combined choline deficiency and MTX treatment upon the content and distribution of folates in liver. We used a newly devised technique for analysis of folates which utilized affinity chromatography followed by high pressure liquid chromatography. Compared to control rats, total hepatic folate content decreased by 31% in the choline deficient rats, by 48% in the MTX treated rats, and by 60% in rats which were both choline deficient and treated with MTX. In extracts of livers from control rats, folates were present predominantly as penta (35%) and hexaglutamyl (52%) derivatives. The pteridine ring structure distribution of these folates was as follows: 48% 5-methyltetrahydrofolate, 14% formylated tetrahydrofolate, and 39% tetrahydrofolate. In choline deficient animals, there was a decrease in the relative concentration of pentaglutamyl folates and an increase in the relative concentration of heptaglutamyl folates. In livers from MTX treated animals, MTX-polyglutamates with 2–5 glutamate residues accumulated. The consequences of MTX treatment were: a) an elongation of the glutamate chains of the folates as the proportion of hepta- and octaglutamyl derivatives was increased relative to penta- and hexaglutamyl folates; b) the occurrence of unreduced folic acid; c) a decrease in the relative concentration of 5-methyltetrahydrofolate and an increase in the relative concentration of formylated tetrahydrofolate, and d) no change in the relative concentrations of tetrahydrofolate. In livers from animals that were both choline deficient and treated with MTX, the tetrahydrofolate concentrations were 50% of control while formylated tetrahydrofolate concentrations increased 3-fold. These data are discussed from the standpoint of the current understanding of mechanisms that regulate the elongation of the glutamic acid chains of folates and those that regulate folate dependent synthesis and utilization of one carbon unit.

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This work was supported by Grant HD-16727 from the NIH and by the United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service under Contract 53-3K06-5-10. The content of this publication does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the United States Department of Agriculture, nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the United States Government.

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