Genetics of psychiatric disorders in the GWAS era: an update on schizophrenia



Publication Details

Schwab, S. G. & Wildenauer, D. B. (2013). Genetics of psychiatric disorders in the GWAS era: an update on schizophrenia. European Archives of Psychiatry and Clinical Neuroscience: official organ of the German society for biological psychiatry, 263 (Suppl. 2), S147-S154.


The influence of genetic factors in the development of schizophrenia has been convincingly demonstrated by family, twin, and adoption studies. The statistical construct of heritability is generally used for estimating the liability due to genetic factors. Heritability estimates for schizophrenia are reported to be between 60 and 80 %. Due to the technical achievements in whole genome-wide association studies, dissection of the underlying genetic factors was intensified recently, resulting in the conclusion that schizophrenia is essentially a polygenic, complex disorder. Most likely more than 100 genes, each with small effect size, contribute to disease risk. A most recent multi-stage genome-wide association study (Ripke et al. in Nat Genet 2013) identified 22 risk loci and estimated that 8,300 independent single-nucleotide polymorphisms contributed to the risk accounting collectively for 32 % in liability. In addition to this polygenic, complex inheritance, there is also strong indication that in some patients a deletion or insertion of a larger chromosomal region [so-called copy number variation (CNV)] might play a crucial role in pathogenesis. This could be specifically important in sporadic cases with schizophrenia, since a higher frequency of de novo mutations has been associated with these CNVs. Further studies, combining much larger sample sizes as well as application of newer technology, such as deep sequencing technologies will be necessary in order to obtain a more comprehensive understanding of the genetic foundations of schizophrenia.

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