Generation and characterization of humanized mice carrying COMT158 Met/Val alleles

Neuropsychopharmacology. 2014 Jul;39(8):1823-32. doi: 10.1038/npp.2014.29. Epub 2014 Feb 10.


The Val158Met polymorphism of human catechol-o-methyltransferase (COMT) is one of the most well-studied single-nucleotide polymorphisms in neuropsychiatry; however, findings are inconsistent due to human genetic heterogeneity. We created the first 'humanized' COMTVal158Met mouse lines, which carry either human COMT Val or Met alleles via gene targeting. The 'humanized' mouse model enables strict comparison of the physiological functions of the two alleles. Consistent with human observation, Met/Met mice exhibited a 30% reduction in enzymatic activity compared with Val/Val mice. On the basis of the reported differences in human Met and Val carriers across working memory, fear processes and sensorimotor gating, we examined these functions between sibling Met/Met and Val/Val mice. Val/Val mice exhibited robust reductions in spatial working memory compared with Met/Met mice in both sexes, with tolcapone treatment significantly reversing the Val/Val alternation deficits. Sex effects were observed in other behaviors, with male Val/Val mice exhibited lower prepulse inhibition compared with Met/Met mice, whereas female mice exhibited the opposite phenotype. Female but not male Met/Met mice exhibited reduced contextual fear, increased cued fear, and reduced extinction recall. Thus, these mice (1) support the argument that human COMT Val158Met polymorphism modulates behavioral functions and most importantly (2) exhibit the expected treatment effects supporting the 'inverted U shaped' dose response of catecholamine signaling on cognitive function. This model will be invaluable for understanding the effects of human COMT Val158Met polymorphism on cortical development and behavioral functions, and how this polymorphism modulates treatment response.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Alleles
  • Animals
  • Catechol O-Methyltransferase / genetics*
  • Catechol O-Methyltransferase / physiology*
  • Exploratory Behavior / physiology
  • Female
  • Gene Targeting
  • Humans
  • Learning / physiology
  • Male
  • Memory / physiology
  • Methionine / genetics*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Models, Animal*
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide*
  • Prepulse Inhibition / genetics
  • Sex Factors
  • Valine / genetics*


  • Methionine
  • COMT protein, human
  • Catechol O-Methyltransferase
  • Valine