Catechol-O-methyltransferase and the clinical features of psychosis

J. L. McClay, A. Fanous, E. J.C.G. Van Den Oord, B. T. Webb, D. Walsh, F. A. O'Neill, K. S. Kendler, X. Chen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


A functional polymorphism (Val-158-Met) at the Catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) locus has been identified as a potential etiological factor in schizophrenia. Yet the association has not been convincingly replicated across independent samples. We hypothesized that phenotypic heterogeneity might be diluting the COMT effect. To clarify the putative association, we performed an exploratory analysis to test for association between COMT and five psychosis symptom scales. These were derived through factor analysis of the Operational Criteria Checklist for Psychiatric Illness. Our sample was the Irish Study of High Density Schizophrenia Families, a large collection consisting of 268 multiplex families. This sample has previously shown a small but significant effect of the COMT Val allele in conferring risk for schizophrenia. We tested for preferential transmission of COMT alleles from parent to affected offspring (n = 749) for each of the five factor-derived scales (negative symptoms, delusions, hallucinations, mania, and depression). Significant overtransmission of the Val allele was found for mania (P < 0.05) and depression (P = 0.01) scales. Examination of odds ratios (ORs) revealed a heterogeneous effect of COMT, whereby it had no effect on Negative Symptoms, but largest impact on Depression (OR = 1.4). These results suggest a modest affective vulnerability conferred by this allele in psychosis, but will require replication.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)935-938
Number of pages4
JournalAmerican Journal of Medical Genetics, Part B: Neuropsychiatric Genetics
Issue number8
StatePublished - Dec 5 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • COMT
  • Functional polymorphism
  • Psychiatric symptoms

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics(clinical)
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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