Monoamine Oxidase A (MAOA) Gene and Personality Traits from Late Adolescence through Early Adulthood: A Latent Variable Investigation

Man K. Xu, Darya Gaysina, Roula Tsonaka, Alexandre J. S. Morin, Tim J. Croudace, Jennifer H. Barnett, Jeanine Houwing-Duistermaat, Marcus Richards, Peter B. Jones, LHA Genetics Group

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    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 1160 male and 1180 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 modelling phenotype- and genetic-based variances and may therefore improve the methodology of molecular genetic studies of complex psychological traits.
    Original languageEnglish
    Article number1736
    Pages (from-to)1-13
    Number of pages13
    JournalFrontiers in Psychology
    Publication statusPublished - 11 Oct 2017


    • latent variable
    • MAOA
    • personality
    • development
    • adolescents


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