Trends Neurosci. 2020 Jul;43(7):519-532. doi: 10.1016/j.tins.2020.04.009. Epub 2020 May 15.
Neural tube defects (NTDs) represent a failure of the neural plate to complete the developmental transition to a neural tube. NTDs are the most common birth anomaly of the CNS. Following mandatory folic acid fortification of dietary grains, a dramatic reduction in the incidence of NTDs was observed in areas where the policy was implemented, yet the genetic drivers of NTDs in humans, and the mechanisms by which folic acid prevents disease, remain disputed. Here, we discuss current understanding of human NTD genetics, recent advances regarding potential mechanisms by which folic acid might modify risk through effects on the epigenome and transcriptome, and new approaches to study refined phenotypes for a greater appreciation of the developmental and genetic causes of NTDs.