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Neuropsychopharmacology. 2006 Mar;31(3):675-84.

Significant association of catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) haplotypes with nicotine dependence in male and female smokers of two ethnic populations.

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Program in Genomics and Bioinformatics on Drug Addiction, Department of Psychiatry, The University of Texas Health Science Center, San Antonio, TX, USA.


The catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) gene plays a prominent role in dopaminergic circuits central to drug reward. Allelic variants within the COMT gene are therefore potential candidates for examining interindividual differences in vulnerability to nicotine dependence (ND). We analyzed five single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), including the Val/Met variant (rs4680), which results in a three- to four-fold difference in enzyme activity within COMT, for association with the three ND measures, SQ, HSI, and FTND, in 602 nuclear families of African-American (AA) or European-American (EA) origin. The Val/Met variant showed a significant association with the three ND measures in the pooled and EA samples and with FTND in the AA sample. Haplotype analysis revealed a major protective A-G-T haplotype (frequency 23.6%) for rs740603-rs4680-rs174699 in the AA sample (minimum Z=-3.35; P=0.0005 for FTND), a major protective T-G-T haplotype (frequency 15.2%; minimum Z=-2.92; P=0.003 for FTND) in the EA sample, and a high-risk C-A-T haplotype (frequency 16.9%; minimum Z=3.16; P=0.002 for SQ) in the AA sample for rs933271-rs4680-rs174699. Furthermore, we found that the significant haplotypes within COMT were gender-specific and the significantly associated A-G-T is protective in AA females only, whereas T-G-T is protective in EA males only. Moreover, we found a major high-risk T-A-T haplotype (frequency 56.7%) that showed significant association with the three ND measures in EA males. Further examination of two protective haplotypes, A-G-T in AAs and T-G-T in EAs, indicated that the low COMT enzyme activity Met allele is protective to become nicotine dependent. In summary, our results provide evidence for a role of COMT in the susceptibility to ND and further confirm that its effect is ethnic and gender specific.

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