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Genome Med. 2009 Oct 30;1(10):102. doi: 10.1186/gm102.

Genetic overlap between autism, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

Author information

  • 1MRC Centre for Neuropsychiatric Genetics and Genomics, Department of Psychological Medicine and Neurology, Cardiff University, Henry Wellcome Building, Heath Park, Cardiff CF14 4XN, UK. CarrollLS@cf.ac.uk.

Abstract

There is strong evidence that genetic factors make substantial contributions to the etiology of autism, schizophrenia and bipolar disorders, with heritability estimates being at least 80% for each. These illnesses have complex inheritance, with multiple genetic and environmental factors influencing disease risk; however, in psychiatry, complex genetics is further compounded by phenotypic complexity. Autism, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder are effectively syndromic constellations of symptoms that define groups of patients with broadly similar outcomes and responses to treatment. As such the diagnostic categories are likely to be heterogeneous and the boundaries between them somewhat arbitrary. Recent applications of whole-genome technologies have discovered rare copy number variants and common single-nucleotide polymorphisms that are associated with risk of developing these disorders. Furthermore, these studies have shown an overlap between the genetic loci and even alleles that predispose to the different phenotypes. The findings have several implications. First, they show that copy number variations are likely to be important risk factors for autism and schizophrenia, whereas common single-nucleotide polymorphism alleles have a role in all disorders. Second, they imply that there are specific genetic loci and alleles that increase an individual's risk of developing any of these disorders. Finally, the findings suggest that some of the specific genetic loci implicated so far encode proteins, such as neurexins and neuroligins, that function in synaptic development and plasticity, and therefore may represent a common biological pathway for these disorders.

PMID:
19886976
PMCID:
PMC2784305
DOI:
10.1186/gm102
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