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Mol Psychiatry. 2004 Jan;9(1):14-27.

The molecular genetics of schizophrenia: new findings promise new insights.

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Department of Psychological Medicine, Neuropsychiatric Genetics Unit, University of Wales College of Medicine, Cardiff, UK.


The high heritability of schizophrenia has stimulated much work aimed at identifying susceptibility genes using positional genetics. However, difficulties in obtaining clear replicated linkages have led to the scepticism that such approaches would ever be successful. Fortunately, there are now signs of real progress. Several strong and well-established linkages have emerged. Three of the best-supported regions are 6p24-22, 1q21-22 and 13q32-34. In these cases, single studies achieved genome-wide significance at P<0.05 and suggestive positive findings have also been reported in other samples. The other promising regions include 8p21-22, 6q21-25, 22q11-12, 5q21-q33, 10p15-p11 and 1q42. The study of chromosomal abnormalities in schizophrenia has also added to the evidence for susceptibility loci at 22q11 and 1q42. Recently, evidence implicating individual genes within some of the linked regions has been reported and more importantly replicated. The weight of evidence now favours NRG1 and DTNBP1 as susceptibility loci, though work remains before we understand precisely how genetic variation at each locus confers susceptibility and protection. The evidence for catechol-O-methyl transferase, RGS4 and G72 is promising but not yet persuasive. While further replications remain the top priority, the respective contributions of each gene, relationships with aspects of the phenotype, the possibility of epistatic interactions between genes and functional interactions between the gene products will all need investigation. The ability of positional genetics to implicate novel genes and pathways will open up new vistas for neurobiological research, and all the signs are that it is now poised to deliver crucial insights into the nature of schizophrenia.

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