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Is COMT a susceptibility gene for schizophrenia?

Williams, Hywel, Owen, Michael John and O'Donovan, Michael Conlon 2007. Is COMT a susceptibility gene for schizophrenia? Schizophrenia Bulletin 33 (3) , pp. 635-641. 10.1093/schbul/sbm019

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Catechol-O-methyl transferase (COMT) is a catabolic enzyme involved in the degradation of a number of bioactive molecules; of principal interest to psychiatry, these include dopamine. The enzyme is encoded by the COMT gene. COMT is located (along with 47 other genes) in a fragment of chromosome 22q11 which when deleted results in a complex syndrome, the psychiatric manifestations of which include schizophrenia and other psychoses. These 2 observations have placed COMT near the top of a rather long list of plausible candidate genes for schizophrenia. The ability to test the hypothesis that COMT might be a susceptibility gene for schizophrenia has been simplified in principle by the existence of a valine-to-methionine (Val/Met) polymorphism which results respectively in high and low activity forms of the enzyme. Given the unequivocal effect of this polymorphism on the function of COMT, and the evidence for a critical role for dopamine in the pathophysiology and treatment of psychosis, there are strong prior expectations that Val/Met influences susceptibility to schizophrenia as well as other psychiatric phenotypes. Indeed the Val/Met polymorphism has become the most widely studied polymorphism in psychiatry. In this review, we consider the evidence for and against the involvement of COMT in schizophrenia. The current data allow us to virtually exclude a simple relationship between schizophrenia and the Val/Met variant previously thought to dominate COMT function. However, recent data suggest a more complex pattern of genetic regulation of COMT function beyond that attributable to the Val/Met locus. Moreover, it is also clear that there is a complex nonlinear relationship between dopamine availability and brain function. These 2 factors, allied to phenotypic complexity within schizophrenia, make it difficult to draw strong conclusions regarding COMT in schizophrenia. Nevertheless, emerging research that takes greater account of all these levels of complexity is beginning to provide tantalizing, but far from definitive, support for the view that COMT influences susceptibility to at least some forms of psychosis.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: MRC Centre for Neuropsychiatric Genetics and Genomics (CNGG)
Neuroscience and Mental Health Research Institute (NMHRI)
Subjects: R Medicine > R Medicine (General)
Publisher: Oxford University Press
ISSN: 0586-7614
Last Modified: 04 Jun 2017 08:42

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