Shoot the Messenger

Science  22 Dec 2006:
Vol. 314, Issue 5807, pp. 1837n
DOI: 10.1126/science.314.5807.1837n

Catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT), an enzyme that metabolizes catecholamines, is implicated in the modulation of persistent pain, as well as cognition and mood. Common genetic variants of COMT, coding for reduced enzymatic activity, are associated with increased pain sensitivity and the likelihood of developing a persistent musculoskeletal pain condition. Three common single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in the coding region of the gene, two of which lead to synonymous changes and one of which leads to a nonsynonymous change, form three major haplotypes, and a haplotype rather than a single SNP better accounts for variability in pain sensitivity. Nackley et al. (p. 1930) explain these findings by showing that the changes in the coding region of the gene affect the secondary structure of the corresponding messenger RNA, which dramatically altered efficiency of protein synthesis.

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