AIMS: Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome (WKS) is commonly associated with chronic alcohol misuse, a condition known to have multiple detrimental effects on thiamine metabolism. This study was conducted to identify genetic variants that may contribute to the development of WKS in individuals with alcohol dependence syndrome through alteration of thiamine transport into cells. METHODS: Exome sequencing data from a panel of genes related to alcohol metabolism and thiamine pathways were analysed in a discovery cohort of 29 individuals with WKS to identify possible genetic risk variants associated with its development. Variant frequencies in this discovery cohort were compared with European frequencies in the Genome Aggregation Database browser, and those present at significantly higher frequencies were genotyped in an additional cohort of 87 alcohol-dependent cases with WKS and 197 alcohol-dependent cognitively intact controls. RESULTS: Thirty non-synonymous variants were identified in the discovery cohort and, after filtering, 23 were taken forward and genotyped in the case-control cohort. Of these SLC19A1:rs1051266:G was nominally associated with WKS. SLC19A1 encodes the reduced folate carrier, a major transporter for physiological folate in plasma; rs1051266 is reported to impact folate transport. Thiamine pyrophosphate (TPP) efflux was significantly decreased in HEK293 cells, stably transfected with rs1051266:G, under thiamine deficient conditions when compared with the efflux from cells transfected with rs1051266:A (P = 5.7 × 10-11). CONCLUSION: This study provides evidence for the role of genetic variation in the SLC19A1 gene, which may contribute to the development of WKS in vivo through modulation of TPP transport in cells.