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Am J Med Genet. 1999 Aug 20;88(4):311-23.

DNA polymorphism-diet-cofactor-development hypothesis and the gene-teratogen model for schizophrenia and other developmental disorders.

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  • 1Division of Neurogenetics, Department of Neurology, UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, Piscataway, New Jersey, USA.


Three problems in identifying genes causing schizophrenia and other developmental disorders may be locus heterogeneity, high disease allele frequency, and unknown mode of inheritance. The DNA polymorphism-diet-cofactor-development (DDCD) hypothesis addresses the first two. The gene-teratogen model addresses the third. The DDCD hypothesis is that schizophrenia results in part from brain abnormality in utero from the aggregate effect of multiple mutations of small effect of genes related to important cofactors (e.g., folate, cobalamin, or pyridoxine) potentiated by maternal dietary deficiency of these cofactors and by pregnancy. The effect results from insufficiency of the cofactors and from resulting effects such as impaired DNA synthesis, immune deficiency, effects on niacin and serotonin metabolism, and teratogens, e.g., hyperhomocysteinemia. The hypothesis addresses all of the unusual features of schizophrenia: e.g., decreased brain gray matter, birth-month effect, geographical differences, socioeconomic predilection, association with obstetrical abnormalities, decreased incidence of rheumatoid arthritis, and association with famine and viral epidemics. In the gene-teratogen model, a teratogenic effect in utero produces a developmental disorder through a teratogenic locus and a modifying or specificity locus, as well as through environmental factors. An example is the major intrauterine effect seen in offspring of phenylketonuric mothers. Thus, the mode of inheritance of genes acting prenatally may in some cases be fundamentally different from that of genes acting postnatally. The model is interesting because it is simple and because teratogenic loci will be difficult to locate by conventional linkage mapping techniques due to misspecification of the affection status of both mother and affected children. A new study design is suggested for identifying teratogenic loci.

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