The catechol-O-methyltransferase Val158Met polymorphism modulates fronto-cortical dopamine turnover
Cognitive deficits occur in up to 30% of patients with early Parkinson’s disease, some of which are thought to result from dysfunction within the fronto-striatal dopaminergic network. Recently, it has been shown that a common functional polymorphism (Val158Met) in the catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) gene is associated with changes in executive performance in tasks that have a fronto-striatal basis. This is thought to relate to changes in cortical dopamine levels as catechol-O-methyltransferase is the main mode of inactivation for dopamine in frontal areas. However to date, no study has investigated dopamine turnover as a function of this genetic polymorphism in Parkinson’s disease. We, therefore, set out to investigate in vivo changes in presynaptic dopamine storage in patients with idiopathic Parkinson’s disease as a function of the catechol-O-methyltransferase Val158Met polymorphism using 18F-DOPA positron emission tomography. Twenty patients with Parkinson’s disease (10 homozygous for Val/Val and 10 for Met/Met catechol-O-methyltransferase polymorphisms) underwent 18F-DOPA positron emission tomography using a prolonged imaging protocol. The first dynamic scan was acquired from 0 to 90 min (early), and the second scan (late) from 150 to 210 min post-intravenous radioligand administration. Patients were matched for age, sex, verbal IQ, disease duration and severity of motor features. 18F-DOPA influx constants (Ki) were calculated and compared for frontal and striatal regions. Late scan mean frontal and striatal Ki values were significantly reduced in both Parkinson’s disease groups relative to early scan Ki values. Met/Met patients had significantly higher late scan Ki values compared with their Val/Val counterparts in anterior cingulate, superior frontal and mid-frontal regions but early frontal Ki values were not different between the two groups. As late Ki values reflect rates of dopamine metabolism to 3,4-dihydroxyphenylacetic acid and homovanillic acid, our results indicate that Met homozygotes have higher presynaptic dopamine levels in frontal regions than Val homozygotes, which may help to explain how this genotypic variation may influence the fronto-striatal cognitive deficits of Parkinson’s disease.