Association analysis between a functional polymorphism in the monoamine oxidase A gene promoter and severe mood disorders

Psychiatr Genet. 2004 Dec;14(4):203-8. doi: 10.1097/00041444-200412000-00007.


Monoamine oxidase A (MAOA) has been suggested to be involved in human behaviour and physiology due to its key role in the metabolism of several different biological amines including the neurotransmitters serotonin, norepinephrin and dopamine.Recently, a 30 bp repeat in the MAOA gene promoter (uMAOA) has been demonstrated to be polymorphic and to affect transcriptional activity. In the context of an association case-control study design, we analysed the uMAOA polymorphism in 389 unrelated patients affected by severe mood disorders (88 bipolar subjects and 301 major depressive individuals) and in 156 controls. No association was found between the uMAOA locus and bipolar disorder or major depression. However, an increase of high-activity uMAOA alleles was found in major depression female patients presenting a seasonal pattern (chi2=3.013, P=0.05) or psychotic symptoms in their episodes (chi2=2.679, P=0.07). In female bipolar disorder patients, long alleles were associated with longest times of admission (F=4.604, P=0.037). A trend for association with seasonal pattern was also defined in this group (data not corrected for multiple testing). Our results suggest that MAOA gene variation may modulate the expression of some clinical aspects of severe mood disorders, especially in females, and support the existence of a genetic and aetiologic heterogeneity underlying the diagnoses of bipolar disorder and major depression.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Base Sequence
  • Bipolar Disorder / genetics
  • DNA / blood
  • DNA / genetics
  • DNA / isolation & purification
  • DNA Primers
  • Depressive Disorder / genetics
  • Female
  • Genetic Variation
  • Genotype
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Monoamine Oxidase / genetics*
  • Mood Disorders / genetics*
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Polymorphism, Genetic*
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic*
  • Reference Values


  • DNA Primers
  • DNA
  • Monoamine Oxidase