Evidence that the methylation state of the monoamine oxidase A (MAOA) gene predicts brain activity of MAOA enzyme in healthy men

Elena Shumay, Jean Logan, Nora D. Volkow, Joanna S. Fowler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

98 Scopus citations

Abstract

Human brain function is mediated by biochemical processes, many of which can be visualized and quantified by positron emission tomography (PET). PET brain imaging of monoamine oxidase A (MAOA)-an enzyme metabolizing neurotransmitters-revealed that MAOA levels vary widely between healthy men and this variability was not explained by the common MAOA genotype (VNTR genotype), suggesting that environmental factors, through epigenetic modifications, may mediate it. Here, we analyzed MAOA methylation in white blood cells (by bisulphite conversion of genomic DNA and subsequent sequencing of cloned DNA products) and measured brain MAOA levels (using PET and [11C]clorgyline, a radiotracer with specificity for MAOA) in 34 healthy non-smoking male volunteers. We found significant interindividual differences in methylation status and methylation patterns of the core MAOA promoter. The VNTR genotype did not influence the methylation status of the gene or brain MAOA activity. In contrast, we found a robust association of the regional and CpG site-specific methylation of the core MAOA promoter with brain MAOA levels. These results suggest that the methylation status of the MAOA promoter (detected in white blood cells) can reliably predict the brain endophenotype. Therefore, the status of MAOA methylation observed in healthy males merits consideration as a variable contributing to interindividual differences in behavior.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1151-1160
Number of pages10
JournalEpigenetics
Volume7
Issue number10
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 2012
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • DNA methylation
  • MAOA genotype
  • Monoamine oxidase A
  • Positron emission tomography

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