BACKGROUND: Monoamine oxidase A (MAOA) is involved in the pathogenesis of mood disorders and Alzheimer's disease (AD). MAOA activity and gene expression have been found to be up-regulated in different brain areas of AD patients, including the pineal gland. Increased pineal MAOA activity might contribute to the reduced pineal melatonin production in AD. A promoter polymorphism of a variable number tandem repeats (VNTR) in the MAOA gene shows to affect MAOA transcriptional activity in vitro.
METHODS: Here we examined in 63 aged controls and 44 AD patients the effects of the MAOA-VNTR on MAOA gene expression and activity in the pineal gland as endophenotypes, and on melatonin production.
RESULTS: AD patients carrying long MAOA-VNTR genotype (consisting of 3.5- or 4-repeat alleles) showed higher MAOA gene expression and activity than the short-genotyped (i.e., 3-repeat allele) AD patients. Moreover, the AD-related up-regulation of MAOA showed up only among long-genotype bearing subjects. There was no significant effect of the MAOA-VNTR on MAOA activity or gene expression in controls, or on melatonin production in both controls and AD patients.
CONCLUSION: Our data suggest that the MAOA-VNTR affects the activity and gene expression of MAOA in the brain of AD patients, and is involved in the changes of monoamine metabolism.