The enzyme catechol-O-methyl transferase (COMT), identified in the 1950s, is involved in catabolism of monoamines that are influenced by psychotropic medications, including neuroleptics and antidepressants. The COMT gene lies in a chromosomal region of interest for psychosis and bipolar spectrum disorder and a common polymorphism within the gene alters the activity of the enzyme. As a consequence, COMT has been one of the most studied genes for psychosis. On the basis of prior probabilities it would seem surprising if functional variation at COMT did not have some influence either on susceptibility to psychiatric phenotypes, modification of the course of illness or moderation of response to treatment. There is now robust evidence that variation at COMT influences frontal lobe function. However, despite considerable research effort, it has not proved straightforward to demonstrate and characterise a clear relationship between genetic variation at COMT and psychiatric phenotypes. It is of course, possible that COMT will turn out to be an unusually intractable case but it seems more likely that the experiences with this gene will provide a foretaste of the complexity of genotype-phenotype relationships that will be found for psychiatric traits. In this review, we consider the current state of evidence and the implications both for further studies of COMT and more generally for studies of other genes.