Objective: To test the “vitamin D-folate hypothesis for the evolution of human skin pigmentation.”. Methods: Total ozone mapping spectrometer (TOMS) satellite data were used to examine surface UV-irradiance in a large (n = 649) Australian cross-sectional study population. Genetic analysis was used to score vitamin D- and folate-related gene polymorphisms (n = 22), along with two pigmentation gene variants (IRF4-rs12203592/HERC2-rs12913832). Red cell folate and vitamin D3 were measured by immunoassay and HPLC, respectively. Results: Ultraviolet radiation (UVR) and pigmentation genes interact to modify blood vitamin levels; Light skin IRF4-TT genotype has greatest folate loss while light skin HERC2-GG genotype has greatest vitamin D3 synthesis (reflected in both TOMS and seasonal data). UV-wavelength exhibits a dose–response relationship in folate loss within light skin IRF4-TT genotype (305 > 310 > 324 > 380 nm). Significant vitamin D3 photosynthesis only occurs within light skin HERC2-GG genotype, and is maximal at 305 nm. Three dietary antioxidants (vitamins C, E, and β-carotene) interact with UVR and pigmentation genes preventing oxidative loss of labile reduced folate vitamers, with greatest benefit in light skin IRF4-TT subjects. The putative photosensitiser, riboflavin, did not sensitize red cell folate to UVR and actually afforded protection. Four genes (5xSNPs) influenced blood vitamin levels when stratified by pigmentation genotype; MTHFR-rs1801133/rs1801131, TS-rs34489327, CYP24A-rs17216707, and VDR-ApaI-rs7975232. Lightest IRF4-TT/darkest HERC2-AA genotype combination (greatest folate loss/lowest vitamin D3 synthesis) has 0% occurrence. The opposing, commonest (39%) compound genotype (darkest IRF4-CC/lightest HERC2-GG) permits least folate loss and greatest synthesis of vitamin D3. Conclusion: New biophysical evidence supports the vitamin D-folate hypothesis for evolution of skin pigmentation.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics