OBJECTIVE - The present study sought to replicate previous findings of an association between the Catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) val158met polymorphism with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and symptomatology in a novel age group, preschool children.
METHODS - COMT genotype was determined in a sample of 171 3-6-year-old trauma-exposed children. PTSD was assessed with a semistructured interview. Accounting for sex, trauma type, and age, genotype was examined in relation to categorical and continuous measures of PTSD both controlling for race and within the two largest racial categories (African American [AA] and European American [EA]).
RESULTS - Race significantly moderated the association between genotype and PTSD. Specifically, the genotype associated with increased PTSD symptoms in one racial group had the opposite association in the other racial group. For AA children the met/met genotype was associated with more PTSD symptoms. However, for EA children, val allele carriers had more PTSD symptoms. Whereas every AA child with the met/met genotype met criteria for PTSD, none of the EA children with the met/met genotype did. This genetic association with COMT genotype, in both races but in opposite directions, was most associated with increased arousal symptoms.
CONCLUSIONS - These findings replicate previous findings in participants of African descent, highlight the moderating effect of race on the association between COMT genotype and PTSD, and provide direct evidence that consideration of population stratification within gene-by-environment studies is valuable to prevent false negative findings.