Clonidine, an α2-adrenergic receptor agonist, decreases circulating norepinephrine and epinephrine, attenuating sympathetic activity. Although catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) metabolizes catecholamines, main effectors of sympathetic function, COMT genetic variation effects on clonidine treatment are unknown.
Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is hypothesized to result in part from dysregulated sympathetic function. A candidate gene analysis of COMT rs4680 effects on clinical outcomes in the Norwegian Study of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome in Adolescents: Pathophysiology and Intervention Trial (NorCAPITAL), a randomized double-blinded clonidine versus placebo trial, was conducted (N=104).
Patients homozygous for rs4680 high-activity allele randomized to clonidine took 2500 fewer steps compared with placebo (Pinteraction=0.04). There were no differences between clonidine and placebo among patients with COMT low-activity alleles.
Similar gene–drug interactions were observed for sleep (Pinteraction=0.003) and quality of life (Pinteraction=0.018).
Detrimental effects of clonidine in the subset of CFS patients homozygous for COMT high-activity allele warrant investigation of potential clonidine–COMT interaction effects in other conditions.