Catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) metabolizes catecholamines such as dopamines, noradrenaline and adrenaline. It exists as common high and low activity alleles in the population (determined by a valine 158 methionine polymorphisms), and high red blood cell activity of COMT has previously been associated with schizophrenia. To examine the relationship between COMT and schizophrenia genetically, the transmission disequilibrium test was performed on 22 multiply affected Caucasian and Japanese families genotyped for val158met and a second, silent, polymorphism (C256G), using PCR based assays. The high activity val158 allele was transmitted from parents to the affected individuals more frequently than the low activity met158 allele, although this was not statistically significant. Combining this data with a previous study using Chinese family trios with schizophrenia (Li et al., 1996) gave a highly significant result (p = 0.0015). The G256 allele was also transmitted preferentially to the affected offspring, and this was statistically significant when schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder and unspecified functional psychosis were included in the definition of the affected phenotype (p = 0.03). Overall, these findings may indicate an effect of COMT alleles on susceptibility to schizophrenia, or reflect linkage disequilibrium with a different causative polymorphism in the vicinity. Other reported associations of COMT with obsessive compulsive and rapid cycling bipolar disorder indicate that the COMT gene may have complex and pleiotropic effects on susceptibility and symptomatology of neuropsychiatric disorders.