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Brain Res Mol Brain Res. 2004 Dec 20;132(2):95-104.

The molecular genetics of the 22q11-associated schizophrenia.

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Laboratory of Human Neurogenetics, The Rockefeller University, New York, NY 10021, USA.


Schizophrenia has a strong genetic component but the mode of inheritance of the disease is complex and in all likelihood involves interaction among multiple genes and also possibly environmental or stochastic factors. A number of studies have shown that the 22q11 deletion syndrome (22q11DS) is a true genetic subtype of schizophrenia and as such may play an extremely important role in deciphering the genetic basis of schizophrenia. Microdeletions of the 22q11 locus are associated with a staggering increased risk to develop schizophrenia. The same locus has also been implicated by some linkage studies. Systematic examination of individual genes from the 1.5 Mb critical region has identified so far the PRODH and ZDHHC8 as strong candidate schizophrenia susceptibility genes from this locus. Discovery of these genes implicates neuromodulatory aminoacids and protein palmitoylation as important for disease development. Other genes, including the gene encoding for COMT, have been implicated by candidate gene approaches. It therefore appears that the 22q11-associated schizophrenia may have the characteristics of a contiguous gene syndrome, where deficiency in more than one gene contributes to the strikingly increased disease risk. Mouse models for individual candidate genes will provide the investigators with the opportunity to start understanding the function of these genes and how they may impact on schizophrenia. Mouse models that carry long-range deletions will likely capture the interactions among the culprit genes and help explain the genetic contribution of this locus to the high risk for schizophrenia. In-depth human and animal model studies of 22q11DS promise to answer critical questions relating to the devastating illness of schizophrenia, whose causes remain largely unknown.

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