The val158met COMT polymorphism’s effect on atrophy in healthy aging and Parkinson’s disease.
We investigated whether the val(158)met functional polymorphism of catechol-o-methyltransferase influenced age-related changes in grey matter density and volume, both in healthy individuals (n=80, ages 18-79) and those with Parkinson's disease (n=50). Global grey matter volumes and voxelwise estimates of grey matter volume and density were determined from structural magnetic resonance images at 3T. Male and female ValVal homozygotes (low prefrontal cortical dopamine) had more grey matter in early adulthood, but this difference disappeared with increasing age. The insula and ventral prefrontal cortex had higher grey matter volume in younger, but not older, ValVal homozygotes. Conversely, the dominant premotor cortex revealed genotypic differences in grey matter density in later life. There were no global or local interactions between Parkinson's disease and COMT val(158)met genotype on morphometry. Since the val(158)met polymorphism is associated with differences in cortical dopamine metabolism, our data suggest a role for dopamine in cortical development followed by differential vulnerability to cortical atrophy across the adult life span.