MAOA Variants and Genetic Susceptibility to Major Psychiatric Disorders

Mol Neurobiol. 2016 Sep;53(7):4319-27. doi: 10.1007/s12035-015-9374-0. Epub 2015 Jul 31.


Monoamine oxidase A (MAOA) is a mitochondrial enzyme involved in the metabolism of several biological amines such as dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin, which are important neurochemicals in the pathogenesis of major psychiatric illnesses. MAOA is regarded as a functional plausible susceptibility gene for psychiatric disorders, whereas previous hypothesis-driven association studies obtained controversial results, a reflection of small sample size, genetic heterogeneity, or true negative associations. In addition, MAOA is not analyzed in most of genome-wide association studies (GWAS) on psychiatric disorders, since it is located on Chromosome Xp11.3. Therefore, the effects of MAOA variants on genetic predisposition to psychiatric disorders remain obscure. To fill this gap, we collected psychiatric phenotypic (schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and major depressive disorder) and genetic data in up to 18,824 individuals from diverse ethnic groups. We employed classical fixed (or random) effects inverse variance weighted methods to calculate summary odds ratios (OR) and 95 % confidence intervals (CI). We identified a synonymous SNP rs1137070 showing significant associations with major depressive disorder (p = 0.00067, OR = 1.263 for T allele) and schizophrenia (p = 0.0039, OR = 1.225 for T allele) as well as a broad spectrum of psychiatric phenotype (p = 0.000066, OR = 1.218 for T allele) in both males and females. The effect size was similar between different ethnic populations and different gender groups. Collectively, we confirmed that MAOA is a risk gene for psychiatric disorders, and our results provide useful information toward a better understanding of genetic mechanism involving MAOA underlying risk of complex psychiatric disorders.

Keywords: Effect size; MAOA; Meta-analysis; Psychiatric disorders.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / enzymology*
  • Mental Disorders / genetics*
  • Meta-Analysis as Topic
  • Minisatellite Repeats / genetics
  • Monoamine Oxidase / genetics*
  • Polymorphism, Genetic*
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide / genetics


  • Monoamine Oxidase