Psychological Medicine

Review Article

What have the genomics ever done for the psychoses?

M. Gilla1 c1, G. Donohoea1 and A. Corvina1

a1 Neuropsychiatric Genetics Research Group, Department of Psychiatry, School of Medicine, Trinity College Dublin, Ireland


Background Despite the substantial heritability of the psychoses and their genuine public health burden, the applicability of the genomic approach in psychiatry has been strongly questioned or prematurely dismissed.

Method A selective review of the recent literature on molecular genetic and genomic approaches to the psychoses including the early output from genome-wide association studies and the genomic analysis of DNA structural variation.

Results Susceptibility variants at strong candidate genes have been identified including neuregulin, dysbindin, DISC1 and neurexin 1. Rare but highly penetrant copy number variants and new mutations affecting genes involved in neurodevelopment, cell signalling and synaptic function have been described showing some overlapping genetic architecture with other developmental disorders including autism. The de-novo mutations described offer an explanation for the familial sporadic divide and the persistence of schizophrenia in the population. The functional effects of risk variants at the level of cognition and connectivity has been described and recently, ZNF804A has been identified, and the MHC re-identified as risk loci, and it has been shown that at least a third of the variation in liability is due to multiple common risk variants of small effect with a substantial shared genetic liability between schizophrenia and bipolar affective disorder.

Conclusions The genomics have done much for the psychoses to date and more is anticipated.

(Received June 08 2009)

(Revised July 27 2009)

(Accepted August 01 2009)

(Online publication October 12 2009)


c1 Address for correspondence: Professor M. Gill, Department of Psychiatry, Trinity Center for Health Sciences, St. James' Hospital, Dublin 8, Ireland. (Email: