The gene encoding Catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT), a dopamine catabolic enzyme, has been associated inconsistently with schizophrenia in spite of consistent evidence for dopaminergic dysfunction in the prefrontal cortex (PFC) of schizophrenia. Since one contribution to this inconsistency might be genetic heterogeneity, this study investigated whether the COMT gene was associated with the development and symptoms of schizophrenia in relatively genetically homogeneous Chinese schizophrenic patients. We analyzed two polymorphisms (rs740603 and rs4818) of the COMT gene in a case-control study of 604 Han Chinese (284 patients and 320 controls). The patients' psychopathology was assessed using the Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale (PANSS). We found no significant differences in the rs740603 and rs4818 genotype and allele distributions between the patient and control groups. Quantitative trait analysis by the UNPHASED program showed that the rs740603 and rs740603(G)-rs4818(G) haplotypes were associated with negative symptoms in the schizophrenic patients, particularly among female patients. Thus, the COMT gene polymorphisms may not contribute to the susceptibility to schizophrenia, but may contribute to the negative symptoms of schizophrenia among Han Chinese.
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