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Mol Psychiatry. 2005 Nov;10(11):1026-36.

Catechol-O-methyltransferase haplotypes are associated with psychosis in Alzheimer disease.

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  • 1Division of Geriatrics and Neuropsychiatry, Department of Psychiatry, Graduate School of Public Health, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA 15213, USA.


Psychotic symptoms in subjects with Alzheimer disease (AD with psychosis, AD+P) define a phenotype characterized by greater cognitive burden than in AD without psychosis. We have proposed that genes of small effect may contribute to the risk for expression of psychosis in multiple disorders, including AD. Recently, sex-differential association of a three-locus haplotype, including a G-->A transition at codon 108/158 of catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) resulting in a Val-->Met substitution, has been reported to confer an increased risk for schizophrenia. The main objective of the study was to determine if COMT genetic variation is associated with risk of psychosis in AD, and included a case-control study of 373 individuals diagnosed with AD with, or without, psychosis. All subjects were characterized for alleles at the three loci associated with schizophrenia, RS737865, COMT G-->A 108/158 (RS4680), and RS165599, and for a C/T transition adjacent to an estrogen response element (ERE6) in the COMT P2 promoter region. Both single locus and haplotype tests of association were conducted. Logit models were used to examine independent and interacting effects of alleles at the associated loci. All analyses were stratified by sex. In female subjects, RS4680 demonstrated a modest association with AD+P; RS737865 demonstrated a trend towards an association. There was a highly significant association of AD+P with the four-locus haplotype, which resulted from additive effects of alleles at RS4680 and ERE6 (or RS737865, as this locus was in almost absolute linkage disequilibrium (LD) with ERE6). In male subjects, no single locus test was significant, but there remained a strong association between AD+P and the four-locus haplotype. This association appeared to result from interaction of the ERE6/RS737865, RS4680, and RS165599 loci. Genetic variation in COMT is associated with AD+P, and thus appears to contribute to psychosis risk across disorders. Sex-differential associations of COMT with psychosis may result from variation at, or in LD with, ERE6. Examination of variation at ERE6 in subjects with schizophrenia, and further examination of the independent and additive effects of variations in COMT on gene expression, is warranted.

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