Psychological Distress in Fibromyalgia Patients: A Role for Catechol-O-Methyl-Transferase Val158Met Polymorphism

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Objective: Fibromyalgia (FM) has been related to biochemical alterations, central pain sensitization and psychological distress. Among genetic and environmental hypotheses, a role was suggested for catechol-O-methyl-transferase (COMT), a modulator in the metabolism of monoaminergic neurotransmitters. Method: This study compared the COMT Val158Met enzyme polymorphism (rs4680) of 198 FM patients to 99 pain-free controls. Psychological and functional aspects were assessed through investigating anxiety, depression, catastrophizing, perceived health, and functional status. Results: The distribution of the COMT Val158Met polymorphism was similar in FM and controls. Out of 198 patients, 137 were able to stop medication before evaluation. In these patients, the COMT Val158Met genotype was associated with specific psychological profiles. The Met/Met subgroup scored systematically worse on all psychological and functional variables. All variables displayed a “genotype-trend effect” with the Met/Met and Val/Val subgroups at the two ends of the scores. Genotypes distribution in the 61 patients unable to stop medication was significantly different from that of patients able to stop medication and controls (p = .002 and p = .018, respectively) with an increase in the proportion of the Met/Met genotype associated to the lowest COMT activity. These results suggest a possible role of COMT Val158Met polymorphism in the psychological distress observed in FM. Conclusions: The association of COMT genotype with psychological distress may be of importance as identifying subgroups is a challenge in the diagnosis and treatment of fibromyalgia patients. This association may contribute to open new perspectives into the understanding of the pathophysiology of fibromyalgia and stress-related genes.

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