Moderating role of the MAOA genotype in antisocial behaviour

Br J Psychiatry. 2012 Feb;200(2):116-23. doi: 10.1192/bjp.bp.111.093328.


Background: Recent studies have examined gene×environment (G×E) interactions involving the monoamine oxidase A (MAOA) gene in moderating the associations between exposure to adversity and antisocial behaviour. The present study examined a novel method for assessing interactions between a single gene and multiple risk factors related to environmental and personal adversity.

Aims: To test the hypothesis that the presence of the low-activity MAOA genotype was associated with an increased response to a series of risk factors.

Method: Participants were 399 males from the Christchurch Health and Development Study who had complete data on: (a) MAOA promoter region variable number tandem repeat genotype; (b) antisocial behaviour (criminal offending) to age 30 and convictions to age 21; and (c) maternal smoking during pregnancy, IQ, childhood maltreatment and school failure.

Results: Poisson regression models were fitted to three antisocial behaviour outcomes (property/violent offending ages 15-30; and convictions ages 17-21), using measures of exposure to adverse childhood circumstances. The analyses revealed consistent evidence of G x E interactions, such that those with the low-activity MAOA variant who were exposed to adversity in childhood were significantly more likely to report offending in late adolescence and early adulthood.

Conclusions: The present findings add to the evidence suggesting that there is a stable G x E interaction involving MAOA, a range of adverse environmental and personal factors, and antisocial behaviour across the life course. These analyses also demonstrate the utility of using multiple environmental/personal exposures to test G×E interactions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antisocial Personality Disorder / epidemiology
  • Antisocial Personality Disorder / genetics*
  • Child
  • Child Abuse / statistics & numerical data*
  • Crime / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Crime / statistics & numerical data*
  • Educational Status
  • Gene-Environment Interaction*
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease
  • Genotype*
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Minisatellite Repeats / genetics
  • Monoamine Oxidase / genetics*
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • New Zealand / epidemiology
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic / genetics
  • Regression Analysis
  • Risk Factors
  • Smoking / epidemiology


  • Monoamine Oxidase