Journal of Sports Science and Medicine
Journal of Sports Science and Medicine
ISSN: 1303 - 2968   
Ios-APP Journal of Sports Science and Medicine
Androit-APP Journal of Sports Science and Medicine
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©Journal of Sports Science and Medicine ( 2020 ) 19 , 38 - 42

Research article
The “Warrior” COMT Val/Met Genotype Occurs in Greater Frequencies in Mixed Martial Arts Fighters Relative to Controls
Jaime L. Tartar1, , Dominick Cabrera1, Sarah Knafo1, Julius D. Thomas1, Jose Antonio2, Corey A. Peacock2
Author Information
1 Department of Psychology and Neuroscience, Nova Southeastern University Nova Southeastern University, FL, USA
2 Department of Health and Human Performance, Nova Southeastern University Nova Southeastern University, FL, USA

Jaime L. Tartar
✉ Nova Southeastern University, Department of Psychology and Neuroscience, 3301 College Ave, Ft Lauderdale, FL, 33314, USA
Email: tartar@nova.edu
Publish Date
Received: 23-09-2019
Accepted: 22-10-2019
Published (online): 01-03-2020
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ABSTRACT

A functional single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) in the catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) gene (rs4680) is a gene variant that has been shown to predict the ability to maintain cognitive agility during combat and competition. Critically, COMT Met (low-activity; high dopamine) allele carriers outperform Val (high-activity; low dopamine) homozygotes on a variety of cognitive tasks. However, the relationship between genotype and cognitive performance appears to reverse under stressful conditions. Stress increases pre-frontal cortex dopamine (PFC DA) levels, and Met allele carriers (with higher DA) show performance deficits relative to Val allele carriers. This pattern reflects the inverted U-shaped function of DA activity where too little (Val allele) or too much (Met allele carriers under stress) DA is associated with poor cognitive performance. The Val allele advantage for stress resiliency is referred to as the COMT “warrior/ worrier” model. In line with this model, we predicted that elite level mixed martial arts (MMA) fighters would be more likely than athlete controls to carry the GG (warrior) genotype compared to an athlete group and a non-athlete group. Based on findings in our previous studies, we also assessed the stress biomarkers cortisol and salivary alpha-amylase (sAA). There was an overall significant difference in genotype frequencies between groups (p =0.01) and the MMA group showed a significantly greater GG (warrior) genotype frequency than the non-athlete control group (p = 0.003). There was not a significant group x genotype interaction for the cortisol or sAA; however, the non-athlete GG group had significantly higher cortisol than the A/- group (p = 0.038). Combined, our findings suggest that the “warrior” genotype may play a participation role in combat sports.

Key words: Athlete, cortisol, dopamine, MMA, sAA


           Key Points
  • Dopamine signaling in the prefrontal cortex has been shown to moderate aggression levels.
  • It is currently unclear if genetic differences in dopamine levels relate to participation in combat sports.
  • A functional single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) in the catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) gene relates to dopamine levels and allele types considered the “warrior” and the “worrier” genotypes.
  • There is an increase in the “warrior” genotype in MMA fighters relative to control group.
  • This is the first study to report COMT genotype frequencies in combat and non-combat sport athletes.
 
 
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