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Neuropsychopharmacology. 2004 Aug;29(8):1498-505.

An association between a functional polymorphism in the monoamine oxidase a gene promoter, impulsive traits and early abuse experiences.

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Department of Neuroscience, New York State Psychiatric Institute, Department of Psychiatry, Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons, New York, NY, USA.


Monoamine oxidase A (MAOA) activity is altered in mood disorders and lower activity associated with aggressive behavior. The gene has a functional polymorphism with a variable number tandem repeat (VNTR) in the upstream regulatory region (MAOA-uVNTR). In this study, we examined possible associations between the MAOA-uVNTR polymorphism and mood disorders, suicidal behavior, aggression/impulsivity, and effects of reported childhood abuse. In total, 663 unrelated subjects with a psychiatric disorder and 104 healthy volunteers were genotyped for the 30 base pair functional VNTR. A novel repeat variation was identified. No statistically significant associations were found between this functional MAOA-uVNTR polymorphism and mood disorders or suicide attempts. However, the lower expression allele was associated with a history of abuse before 15 years of age in male subjects and with higher impulsivity in males but not females. Our results suggest that the lower expression of the MAOA-uVNTR polymorphism is related to a history of early abuse and may sensitize males, but not females, to the effects of early abuse experiences on impulsive traits in adulthood. The polymorphism may be a marker for impulsivity that in turn may contribute to the risk for abuse. This trait could then be further aggravated by abuse.

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