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Mol Psychiatry. 2008 Mar;13(3):334-47. Epub 2007 Jun 26.

Interaction between a functional MAOA locus and childhood sexual abuse predicts alcoholism and antisocial personality disorder in adult women.

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  • 1Laboratory of Neurogenetics, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, NIH, Rockville, MD 20852, USA.


Women who have experienced childhood sexual abuse (CSA) have an increased risk of alcoholism and antisocial personality disorder (ASPD). Among male subjects, a functional polymorphism (MAOA-LPR, monoamine oxidase A linked polymorphic region) in the promoter region of the monoamine oxidase A gene (MAOA) appears to moderate the effect of childhood maltreatment on antisocial behavior. Our aim was to test whether MAOA-LPR influences the impact of CSA on alcoholism and ASPD in a sample of 291 women, 50% of whom have experienced CSA; we also tested whether haplotypes covering the region where both MAOA and monoamine oxidase B (MAOB) genes are located predict risk of alcoholism and ASPD better than the MAOA-LPR locus alone. Participants included 168 alcoholics (39 with ASPD (antisocial alcoholics) and 123 controls (no alcoholics, no ASPD). Antisocial behavior was also modeled as a continuous trait: ASPD symptoms count. The MAOA-LPR low activity allele was associated with alcoholism (P=0.005), particularly antisocial alcoholism (P=0.00009), only among sexually abused subjects. Sexually abused women who were homozygous for the low activity allele had higher rates of alcoholism and ASPD, and more ASPD symptoms, than abused women homozygous for the high activity allele. Heterozygous women displayed an intermediate risk pattern. In contrast, there was no relationship between alcoholism/antisocial behavior and MAOA-LPR genotype among non-abused women. The MAOA-LPR low activity allele was found on three different haplotypes. The most abundant MAOA haplotype containing the MAOA-LPR low activity allele was found in excess among alcoholics (P=0.008) and antisocial alcoholics (P=0.001). Finally, a MAOB haplotype, which we termed haplotype C, was significantly associated with alcoholism (P=0.006), and to a lesser extent with antisocial alcoholism (P=0.03). In conclusions, MAOA seems to moderate the impact of childhood trauma on adult psychopathology in female subjects in the same way as previously shown among male subjects. The MAOA-LPR low activity allele appears to confer increased vulnerability to the adverse psychosocial consequences of CSA. Haplotype-based analysis of the MAOA gene appeared to strengthen the association, as compared to the MAOA-LPR locus alone. A MAOB haplotype was associated with alcoholism independently from ASPD.

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