Carving chaos: Genetics and the classification of mood and psychotic syndromes

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68 Scopus citations


Though Kraepelin's century-old division of major mental illness into mood disorder and schizophrenia remains in place, debate abounds over the most appropriate classification. Although these arguments previously rested solely on clinical grounds, they now are rooted in genetics and neurobiology. This article reviews evidence from the fields of genetic epidemiology, linkage, association, cytogenetics, and gene expression. Taken together, these data suggest some overlap in the genes that predispose to bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. One gene, DAOA (D-amino acid oxidase activator, also known as G72), has been repeatedly implicated as an overlap gene, while DISC1 and others may constitute additional shared susceptibility genes. Further, some evidence implicates syndromes of co-occurring mood and psychotic symptoms in association with the putative risk alleles in overlap genes. From a nosologie perspective, the existence of overlap genes, coupled with the genotype-phenotype correlations discovered to date, supports the reality of the much debated schizoaffective disorder. Potential non-overlap syndromes - such as nonpsychotic bipolar disorder or cyclothymic temperament, on the one hand, and negative symptoms or the deficit syndrome, on the other - could turn out to have their own unique genetic determinants. If genotypes are to be the anchor points of a clinically useful system of classification, they must ultimately be shown to inform prognosis, treatment, and prevention. No gene variants have yet met these tests in bipolar disorder or schizophrenia.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)47-63
Number of pages17
JournalHarvard review of psychiatry
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 1 2006


  • Bipolar disorder
  • Classification
  • Genes
  • Genetics
  • Nosology
  • Overlap
  • Psychosis
  • Schizophrenia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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