Preferential transmission of the high activity allele of COMT in schizophrenia

Psychiatr Genet. 1996 Fall;6(3):131-3. doi: 10.1097/00041444-199623000-00005.


Catechol-O-methyl transferase (COMT) metabolizes a variety of catecholamines such as dopamine, adrenaline and noradrenaline. It exists in common high and low activity forms. The low activity form is the result of an amino acid substitution (val-108-met) which reduces the thermostability of the enzyme [Lotta et al. (1994) Biochemistry, 34, 4202-4210]. We have genotyped this polymorphism in 178 trios consisting of Han Chinese schizophrenic subjects and their parents in order to test the hypothesis that the high activity allele is transmitted more often to affected subjects. The data were analysed using the transmission disequilibrium test (TDT), a robust method of detecting linkage in the presence of allelic associations. Of the 131 parents heterozygous at this locus, 80 transmitted the high activity allele (val-108) to affected offspring, while the remaining 51 transmitted the low activity allele (p = 0.005, one-tailed). Combining this result with that of a previous TDT study of the same polymorphism in familial schizophrenia [Kunugi et al. (1996) submitted] gives significant evidence for linkage disequilibrium (p = 0.0015). However, val-108 is frequent in the Han Chinese population, and in the present sample, 239 of the 350 non-transmitted parental alleles were val-108 (68%). It is therefore unlikely that val-108 allele of COMT has a major effect on susceptibility to schizophrenia. Our results suggest that either val-108 is a minor risk factor for schizophrenia, that the COMT gene has additional polymorphisms with greater effect on risk, or that this region of chromosome 22 contains a susceptibility gene which is in linkage disequilibrium with the COMT gene.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Alleles
  • Catechol O-Methyltransferase / genetics*
  • Catechol O-Methyltransferase / metabolism
  • China
  • Chromosome Mapping
  • Chromosomes, Human, Pair 22*
  • Disease Susceptibility
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Methionine
  • Middle Aged
  • Point Mutation
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Polymorphism, Genetic*
  • Schizophrenia / genetics*
  • Valine


  • Methionine
  • Catechol O-Methyltransferase
  • Valine