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Keywords:

  • 22q11;
  • brain anatomy;
  • COMT;
  • gene;
  • MRI;
  • PRODH;
  • schizophrenia;
  • voxel-based morphometry

Haploinsufficiency of 22q11 genes including catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) and proline dehydrogenase (PRODH) may result in structural and functional brain abnormalities and increased vulnerability to schizophrenia as observed in patients with microdeletions of 22q11. Thus, COMT and PRODH could be modifier genes for schizophrenia. We examined association of polymorphisms in COMT and PRODH with brain anatomy in young patients with schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder. We acquired structural magnetic resonance imaging data from 51 male patients and genotyped two single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in the COMT gene and three in the PRODH gene. Statistical Parametric Mapping software and optimized voxel-based morphometry were used to determine regional gray matter (GM) and white matter (WM) density differences, and total GM and WM volume differences between genotype groups. Two nonsynonymous SNPs in the PRODH gene were associated with bilateral frontal WM density reductions and an SNP in the P2 promoter region of COMT (rs2097603) was associated with GM increase in the right superior temporal gyrus. Furthermore, we found evidence for COMT and PRODH epistasis: in patients with a COMT Val allele (rs4680) and with one or two mutated PRODH alleles, we observed increased WM density in the left inferior frontal lobe. Our results suggest that genetic variation in COMT and PRODH has significant effects on brain regions known to be affected in schizophrenia. Further research is needed to investigate the role of 22q11 genes on brain structure and function and their role in vulnerability for schizophrenia.