Researchers have discovered evidence for the existence of a gene on Chromosome 1 that appears to confer vulnerability to schizophrenia. Afflicting 1 percent of the adult population with devastating hallucinations, delusions and social impairment, schizophrenia has long been known to involve a genetic component, but has so far eluded efforts to find susceptibility genes.
Evidence suggests that several genes on different chromosomes interact with environmental factors to cause the illness.
In the April 28 issue of Science, a research team led by NIMH grantee Dr. Linda Brzustowicz of Rutgers University and Dr. Anne Bassett of the University of Toronto report a strong statistical connection between a location on Chromosome 1 (1q21-q22) and schizophrenia in 22 large, affected families of German and Celtic descent in Eastern Canada. DNA from 288 subjects spanning at least a few generations were analyzed with help from the Center for Inherited Disease Research (CIDR), a laboratory supported by NIMH and other NIH institutes. The statistical power of the linkage, expressed as a LOD score of 6.5, is the highest reported in a dozen years, but needs to be replicated by other groups before its validity can be established. Most reported linkages to schizophrenia have failed to be confirmed.
Brzustowicz and colleagues also found evidence of a weaker linkage in a region on chromosome 13, which some other groups have also observed. The researchers are now attempting to pinpoint the specific address of the gene on Chromosome 1.
Reference: Linda Brzustowicz, Kathleen Hodgkinson, Eva Chow, William Honer, Anne Bassett, "Location of a major susceptibility locus for familial schizophrenia on chromosome 1q21-q22," Science, 28 April 2000, Vol. 288, 678-682.