Very few molecular genetic studies of personality traits have used longitudinal phenotypic data, therefore molecular basis for developmental change and stability of personality remains to be explored. We examined the role of the monoamine oxidase A gene (MAOA) on extraversion and neuroticism from adolescence to adulthood, using modern latent variable methods. A sample of 1,160 male and 1,180 female participants with complete genotyping data was drawn from a British national birth cohort, the MRC National Survey of Health and Development (NSHD). The predictor variable was based on a latent variable representing genetic variations of the MAOA gene measured by three SNPs (rs3788862, rs5906957, and rs979606). Latent phenotype variables were constructed using psychometric methods to represent cross-sectional and longitudinal phenotypes of extraversion and neuroticism measured at ages 16 and 26. In males, the MAOA genetic latent variable (AAG) was associated with lower extraversion score at age 16 (β = -0.167; CI: -0.289, -0.045; p = 0.007, FDRp = 0.042), as well as greater increase in extraversion score from 16 to 26 years (β = 0.197; CI: 0.067, 0.328; p = 0.003, FDRp = 0.036). No genetic association was found for neuroticism after adjustment for multiple testing. Although, we did not find statistically significant associations after multiple testing correction in females, this result needs to be interpreted with caution due to issues related to x-inactivation in females. The latent variable method is an effective way of modeling phenotype- and genetic-based variances and may therefore improve the methodology of molecular genetic studies of complex psychological traits.

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Frontiers in Psychology
Department of Psychology

Xu, K., Gaysina, D., Tsonaka, R., Morin, A., Croudace, T.J. (Tim J.), Barnett, J., … Jones, P. (2017). Monoamine Oxidase A (MAOA) gene and personality traits from late adolescence through early adulthood: A latent variable investigation. Frontiers in Psychology, 8(OCT). doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2017.01736