Rationale: Catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) is an enzyme involved in the degradation and inactivation of the neurotransmitter dopamine, which is important in mediating drug reward such as nicotine in tobacco smoke. Different COMT alleles encode enzyme whose activity varies from three- to fourfold that may affect dopamine levels and alter subjective effects of nicotine. Recent evidence also suggests that a COMT polymorphism may be especially important in determining an individual's predisposition to developing nicotine dependence.
Subjects and methods: We studied the COMT Val108Met polymorphism in a male population of 203 current smokers, 66 former smokers, and 102 non-smokers. The age-adjusted odds ratios were estimated by multiple logistic regression models.
Results: The results showed no significant association of the COMT Val108Met with initiation, persistent smoking, or smoking cessation. However, current smokers with the Met allele had significantly higher Fagerstrom Test for Nicotine Dependence scores (7.5 +/- 2.1 vs 6.8 +/- 1.8, p = 0.018) and started smoking significantly earlier (18.4 +/- 4.9 vs 20.1 +/- 5.9 years, p = 0.036).
Conclusions: These results suggest that the COMT Val108Met polymorphism may not influence smoking status in a Chinese male population but may influence the age at which smoking started and smoking severity among smokers. However, the findings must be regarded as preliminary because of the relatively small sample size and marginal associations and should be replicated in a larger cohort.