BACKGROUND: Bipolar disorder (BD) has been associated with temperamental and personality traits, although the relationship is still to be fully elucidated. Several studies investigated the genetic basis of temperament and character, identifying catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT), brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), and serotonin transporter (5-HTT) gene variants as strong candidates.
METHODS: In the GECO-BIP study, 125 BD patients and 173 HC were recruited. Subjects underwent to a detailed assessment and the temperament and character inventory 125 items (TCI) was administrated. Three functional genetic variants within key candidate genes (COMT rs4680, BDNF rs6265, and the serotonin-transporter-linked polymorphic region (5-HTTLPR)) were genotyped. Univariate and multivariate analyses were performed.
RESULTS: Compared to HC, BD patients showed higher scores in novelty seeking (NS; p = 0.001), harm avoidance (HA; p < 0.001), and self transcendence (St; p < 0.001), and lower scores in self directness (p < 0.001) and cooperativeness (p < 0.001) TCI dimensions. Concerning the genetic analyses, COMT rs4680 was associated with NS in the total sample (p = 0.007) and in the male subsample (p = 0.022). When performing the analysis in the HC and BD samples, the association was confirmed only in HC (p = 0.012), and in the HC male subgroup in particular (p = 0.004). BDNF rs6265 was associated with St in the BD group (p = 0.017).
CONCLUSION: COMT rs4680 may modulate NS in males in the general population. This effect was not detected in BD patients, probably because BD alters the neurobiological basis of some TCI dimensions. BDNF rs6265 seems to modulate St TCI dimension only in BD patients, possibly modulating the previously reported association between rs6265 and BD treatment response. Further studies are needed to confirm our findings.