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Neurology. 2012 May 22;78(21):1663-9. doi: 10.1212/WNL.0b013e3182574fa1. Epub 2012 May 9.

COMT Val158Met genotype influences neurodegeneration within dopamine-innervated brain structures.

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  • 1Memory and Aging Center, Department of Neurology, University of California-San Francisco, CA, USA.



We sought to determine whether the Val(158)Met polymorphism in the catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) gene influences neurodegeneration within dopamine-innervated brain regions.


A total of 252 subjects, including healthy controls and patients with Alzheimer disease, behavioral variant frontotemporal dementia, and semantic dementia, underwent COMT genotyping and structural MRI.


Whole-brain voxel-wise regression analyses revealed that COMT Val(158)Met Val allele dosage, known to produce a dose-dependent decrease in synaptic dopamine (DA) availability, correlated with decreased gray matter in the region of the ventral tegmental area (VTA), ventromedial prefrontal cortex, bilateral dorsal midinsula, left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, and right ventral striatum. Unexpectedly, patients carrying a Met allele showed greater VTA volumes than age-matched controls. Gray matter intensities within COMT-related brain regions correlated with cognitive and behavioral deficits.


The results are consistent with the hypothesis that increased synaptic DA catabolism promotes neurodegeneration within DA-innervated brain regions.

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