- Early life stress is shown to have a life-span outcome on human and animal behavior, increasing the risk for psychopathology. The gene methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR), which encodes for a key enzyme in one carbon metabolism, shows a high prevalence of polymorphism in patients with developmental disorders. Here we examined the hypothesis that MTHFR deficiency results in an increased susceptibility of the developing brain to mild neonatal stress (NS). Mild NS failed to alter corticosterone levels in young and adult Wt mice. However, an elevated level of corticosterone was found in the MTHFR deficient-NS female, exemplifying enhanced sensitivity to NS. Behavioral phenotyping of Wt and MTHFR deficient mice provides evidence that the effect of mild NS may be amplified by the MTHFR deficient genotype. Distinct behavioral characteristics were altered in male and female mice. In general, three patterns of influence on mice behavior were observed: (1) an additive suppressive effect of NS and MTHFR deficiency on exploration and activity was evident in females; (2) stress related parameters were significantly sensitive to genotype in females, presenting an interaction between genotype and sex; (3) various aspects of behavior in a social setting were modified preferably in males by genotype, NS and the interaction between the two, while females exhibited a smaller effect that was restricted to NS with no genotype effect. Overall, our results support an interaction between mild NS, the MTHFR genotype and sex. We suggest using this animal model to study the molecular mechanism linking these two risk factors and their involvement in neurodevelopmental disorders such as schizophrenia and autism.