Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a common neurodevelopmental disorder with a robust genetic influence. The norepinephrine transporter (NET) is of particular interest as it is one of the main targets in treatment of the disorder. As ADHD is a complex and polygenetic condition, the possible regulation by epigenetic processes has received increased attention. We sought to determine possible differences in NET promoter DNA methylation between patients with ADHD and healthy controls. DNA methylation levels in the promoter region of the NET were determined in 23 adult patients with ADHD and 23 healthy controls. A subgroup of 18 patients with ADHD and 18 healthy controls underwent positron emission tomography (PET) with the radioligand (S,S)-[18F]FMeNER-D2 to quantify the NET in several brain areas in vivo. Analyses revealed significant differences in NET methylation levels at several cytosine–phosphate–guanine (CpG) sites between groups. A defined segment of the NET promoter (“region 1”) was hypermethylated in patients in comparison with controls. In ADHD patients, a negative correlation between methylation of a CpG site in this region and NET distribution in the thalamus, locus coeruleus, and the raphe nuclei was detected. Furthermore, methylation of several sites in region 1 was negatively associated with the severity of hyperactivity–impulsivity symptoms. Our results point to an epigenetic dysregulation in ADHD, possibly due to a compensatory mechanisms or additional factors involved in transcriptional processing.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Molecular Biology
- Psychiatry and Mental health
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience