Catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) genotypes are associated with varying soluble, but not membrane-bound COMT protein in the human prefrontal cortex

Georgia M. Parkin, Madhara Udawela, Andrew Gibbons, Elizabeth Scarr, Brian Dean

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Catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) is an enzyme that catalyses the O-methylation, and thereby the inactivation, of catechol-containing molecules. In humans, it has been suggested that COMT modulates cognitive ability, possibly by regulating degradation of dopamine in the prefrontal cortex. Hence, it is significant that two COMT SNPs, rs4680 (c.472 G > A, p.Val158Met) and rs4818 (c.408 C > G), have been associated with cognitive ability in humans. We have shown these SNPs to be associated with levels of muscarinic M1 receptor mRNA in human cortex, which is significant as that receptor also regulates cognitive ability. We decided to determine if COMT genotype was associated with varying levels of COMT protein, as this could be a mechanism by which COMT genotype could be associated with changes in muscarinic M1 receptor mRNA levels. Hence, we measured COMT levels in prefrontal cortex obtained postmortem from 199 subjects, some of whom had a history of schizophrenia, major depressive disorders or bipolar disorders. Our data show, independent of diagnostic status, that genotype at rs4680 and rs4818, but not at rs737865 and rs165599, is associated with differing levels of soluble COMT (S-COMT), but not membrane-bound COMT (MB-COMT). These findings suggest that the association between COMT polymorphisms and cognitive functioning could be, at least in part, due to their association with varying levels of S-COMT. This is important as, unlike MB-COMT, the substrates targeted by S-COMT are likely to be intra-cellular rather than, like dopamine, located mainly in the synaptic vesicles or the extra-cellular space.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1251-1258
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Human Genetics
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2018
Externally publishedYes

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