Catechol-O-methyltransferase Val158Met polymorphism and altered COMT gene expression in the prefrontal cortex of suicide brains

Document Type



Brain and Mind Institute


Catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) plays a key role in the degradation of catecholamine neurotransmitters within the brain. A functional polymorphism COMT Val158Met has been associated with psychiatric disorders including suicidal behavior. In the present study we examined whether this polymorphism was related to COMT mRNA expression in frontal cortical regions, and whether the expression of COMT differed between depressed suicide victims and psychiatric healthy controls. The Val158Met polymorphism was determined by polymerase chain reaction and restriction fragment length polymorphism (PCR-RFLP) analysis. The levels of COMT mRNA expression in the frontopolar cortex (FPC; 29 suicides vs. 27 controls) and orbital frontal cortex (OFC; 19 suicides vs. 15 controls) were significantly increased among depressed individuals that died by suicide relative to those of controls, being up-regulated by approximately 60% and 65% in the FPC and OFC, respectively. Furthermore, among individuals with the Met allele (Met/Met and Met/Val genotypes) who died by suicide COMT mRNA expression was elevated relative to that of the nondepressed Met allele carriers. However, significant differences were not detected between suicides (n=49) and controls (n=72) with respect to the Val158Met genotypic distribution and allelic frequencies. These results are consistent with the perspective that altered COMT mRNA expression in frontal cortical brain regions might contribute to suicide and/or depression, further supporting the role of dysregulation of catecholaminergic pathway genes in the pathophysiology of suicide behaviors.


This work was published before the author joined Aga Khan University

Publication (Name of Journal)

Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology & Biological Psychiatry