Personality in relation to genetic liability for schizophrenia and bipolar disorder: Differential associations with the COMT Val108/158Met polymorphism

Amy L. Silberschmidt, Scott R. Sponheim

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Schizophrenia and bipolar disorder may share aspects of genetic etiology. Evidence supports the Val108/158Met polymorphism of the Catechol-o-Methyltransferase (COMT) gene as potentially contributing to the etiology of both disorders. To determine whether the COMT gene is associated with personality traits related to genetic risk for either schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, we examined dimensions of personality psychopathology in biological relatives of individuals with the disorders. Specifically, we contrasted personality characteristics of first-degree relatives of people with schizophrenia, first-degree relatives of people with bipolar-I disorder, and nonpsychiatric control participants using scores from the Dimensional Assessment of Personality Pathology-Brief Questionnaire (DAPP-BQ). We also characterized the COMT Val108/158Met polymorphism of subjects. Compared to controls, relatives of schizophrenia patients scored lower on stimulus seeking and higher on restrictive expression and social avoidance. Compared to relatives of bipolar patients, relatives of schizophrenia patients had lower scores on narcissism, rejectionality (i.e., rejection of ideas of others), stimulus seeking, passive-aggressive oppositionality, and self-harm. The subset of relatives of schizophrenia patients who were COMT val homozygotes exhibited lower scores on narcissism, rejectionality, and stimulus seeking than met homozygote relatives of schizophrenia patients and control participants. Although relatives of bipolar patients showed scale elevations consistent with emotional dysregulation, the scores failed to be associated with the Val108/158Met polymorphism. Abnormally low narcissism and rejectionality in val homozygote relatives of schizophrenia patients suggests that the val allele of the COMT polymorphism may be associated with an underdeveloped self-concept phenomenologically similar to made volition and passivity experiences comprising first-rank symptoms of schizophrenia.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)316-324
Number of pages9
JournalSchizophrenia Research
Issue number1-3
StatePublished - Mar 2008


  • Bipolar disorder
  • Catechol-o-Methytransferase
  • Genetics
  • Personality
  • Schizophrenia

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