The COMT val158met polymorphism and brain morphometry in healthy young adults

Neurosci Lett. 2006 Sep 11;405(1-2):34-9. doi: 10.1016/j.neulet.2006.06.034. Epub 2006 Jul 18.


Catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) is the most important mechanism for dopamine degradation in the prefrontal cortex and contains a functional polymorphism (val(158)met) influencing enzyme activity. The low-activity met allele has been associated with better performance on cognitive tasks relying on the prefrontal cortex. Whether COMT also affects brain structure, is still unclear. This study investigated the relationship between the COMT val(158)met polymorphism and brain anatomy in healthy young adults. In a cross-sectional study, structural MRI data and DNA for COMT genotyping were obtained from 154 healthy young adults. Statistical Parametric Mapping software (SPM2) and optimized voxel-based morphometry were used to determine total and regional gray and white matter density differences between genotype groups, as well as age-related gray and white matter density differences within the genotype groups. We found a significant effect of COMT genotype on age-related differences in gray and white matter density in females but not in males. In female val carriers increased gray matter in the temporal and parietal lobe and the cerebellum and increased white matter in the frontal lobes were positively correlated with age; in female met homozygotes decreased gray matter density in the parietal lobe and decreased white matter density in the frontal lobes, the parahippocampal gyrus and the corpus callosum were positively correlated with age. These results suggest that the COMT val(158)met polymorphism may affect age-related differences in gray and white matter density in females.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Amino Acid Substitution
  • Brain / anatomy & histology*
  • Catechol O-Methyltransferase / genetics*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Genotype
  • Heterozygote
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Methionine / genetics
  • Polymorphism, Genetic
  • Sex Factors
  • Spectrometry, Mass, Matrix-Assisted Laser Desorption-Ionization
  • Valine / genetics


  • Methionine
  • Catechol O-Methyltransferase
  • Valine