Behavior Genetics

, Volume 40, Issue 3, pp 415–423 | Cite as

Catechol-o-Methyltransferase Genotype and Childhood Trauma May Interact to Impact Schizotypal Personality Traits

  • Jonathan SavitzEmail author
  • Lize van der Merwe
  • Timothy K. Newman
  • Dan J. Stein
  • Raj Ramesar
Brief Communication


We attempt to identify gene by childhood abuse interactions which predispose to the development of schizotypal traits in a familial bipolar disorder (BD) sample. Self-report measures of schizotypal personality traits (Schizotypal Personality Scale) and childhood maltreatment (Childhood Trauma Questionnaire) were administered to 222 participants from 44 families with BD. Variants of catechol-o-methyltransferase (COMT) and four other dopamine pathway-related genes: DRD4, DRD2,MAOA, and SLC6A3, were typed. BD type I (BD I) subjects scored significantly higher than their unaffected relatives on the Schizotypal Personality Scale. The val allele of the Val158 Met polymorphism of the COMT gene was associated with increased schizotypal personality trait scores in individuals exposed to higher levels of self-reported childhood trauma (p < 0.05). There was no direct effect of the val158met polymorphism on schizotypal personality traits. Further, no passive correlation between COMT genotype and childhood trauma was found. We raise the possibility that genetically-driven variation in COMT may interact with childhood trauma to contribute to the risk of developing schizotypal personality traits.


Bipolar disorder Comt Childhood abuse Gene–environment interaction Schizotypal personality Gene–environment correlation Psychosis 



The authors would like to thank Elize Pietersen and Gameda Benefeld for conducting psychological interviews. The support of the University of Cape Town’s Brain-Behaviour Initiative and the Medical Research Council of South Africa is acknowledged.

Conflicts of interest

No conflicts of interest are declared.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jonathan Savitz
    • 1
    Email author
  • Lize van der Merwe
    • 2
  • Timothy K. Newman
    • 3
  • Dan J. Stein
    • 3
  • Raj Ramesar
    • 1
  1. 1.MRC/UCT Human Genetics Research Unit, Institute of Infectious Disease and Molecular MedicineUniversity of Cape TownCape TownSouth Africa
  2. 2.Biostatistics Unit, Medical Research Council of South Africa and Department of StatisticsUniversity of the Western CapeBellvilleSouth Africa
  3. 3.Department of PsychiatryUniversity of Cape TownCape TownSouth Africa

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