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Mol Psychiatry. 2008 Jan;13(1):36-64. Epub 2007 Oct 2.

The DISC locus in psychiatric illness.

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Medical Genetics Section, The Centre for Molecular Medicine, Western General Hospital, The University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK.


The DISC locus is located at the breakpoint of a balanced t(1;11) chromosomal translocation in a large and unique Scottish family. This translocation segregates in a highly statistically significant manner with a broad diagnosis of psychiatric illness, including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and major depression, as well as with a narrow diagnosis of schizophrenia alone. Two novel genes were identified at this locus and due to the high prevalence of schizophrenia in this family, they were named Disrupted-in-Schizophrenia-1 (DISC1) and Disrupted-in-Schizophrenia-2 (DISC2). DISC1 encodes a novel multifunctional scaffold protein, whereas DISC2 is a putative noncoding RNA gene antisense to DISC1. A number of independent genetic linkage and association studies in diverse populations support the original linkage findings in the Scottish family and genetic evidence now implicates the DISC locus in susceptibility to schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, bipolar disorder and major depression as well as various cognitive traits. Despite this, with the exception of the t(1;11) translocation, robust evidence for a functional variant(s) is still lacking and genetic heterogeneity is likely. Of the two genes identified at this locus, DISC1 has been prioritized as the most probable candidate susceptibility gene for psychiatric illness, as its protein sequence is directly disrupted by the translocation. Much research has been undertaken in recent years to elucidate the biological functions of the DISC1 protein and to further our understanding of how it contributes to the pathogenesis of schizophrenia. These data are the main subject of this review; however, the potential involvement of DISC2 in the pathogenesis of psychiatric illness is also discussed. A detailed picture of DISC1 function is now emerging, which encompasses roles in neurodevelopment, cytoskeletal function and cAMP signalling, and several DISC1 interactors have also been defined as independent genetic susceptibility factors for psychiatric illness. DISC1 is a hub protein in a multidimensional risk pathway for major mental illness, and studies of this pathway are opening up opportunities for a better understanding of causality and possible mechanisms of intervention.

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