Send to

Choose Destination
Hum Mol Genet. 2006 Nov 1;15(21):3132-45. Epub 2006 Sep 19.

Hypomethylation of MB-COMT promoter is a major risk factor for schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

Author information

Department of Psychiatry at Massachusetts Mental Health Center and Harvard Institute of Psychiatric Epidemiology and Genetics, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA.


The variability in phenotypic presentations and the lack of consistency of genetic associations in mental illnesses remain a major challenge in molecular psychiatry. Recently, it has become increasingly clear that altered promoter DNA methylation could play a critical role in mediating differential regulation of genes and in facilitating short-term adaptation in response to the environment. Here, we report the investigation of the differential activity of membrane-bound catechol-O-methyltransferase (MB-COMT) due to altered promoter methylation and the nature of the contribution of COMT Val158Met polymorphism as risk factors for schizophrenia and bipolar disorder by analyzing 115 post-mortem brain samples from the frontal lobe. These studies are the first to reveal that the MB-COMT promoter DNA is frequently hypomethylated in schizophrenia and bipolar disorder patients, compared with the controls (methylation rate: 26 and 29 versus 60%; P=0.004 and 0.008, respectively), particularly in the left frontal lobes (methylation rate: 29 and 30 versus 81%; P=0.003 and 0.002, respectively). Quantitative gene-expression analyses showed a corresponding increase in transcript levels of MB-COMT in schizophrenia and bipolar disorder patients compared with the controls (P=0.02) with an accompanying inverse correlation between MB-COMT and DRD1 expression. Furthermore, there was a tendency for the enrichment of the Val allele of the COMT Val158Met polymorphism with MB-COMT hypomethylation in the patients. These findings suggest that MB-COMT over-expression due to promoter hypomethylation and/or hyperactive allele of COMT may increase dopamine degradation in the frontal lobe providing a molecular basis for the shared symptoms of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Silverchair Information Systems Icon for PubMed Central
Loading ...
Support Center