Recent genetic findings in schizophrenia and their therapeutic relevance.
Over 100 loci are now associated with schizophrenia risk as identified by single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in genome-wide association studies. These findings mean that 'genes for schizophrenia' have unquestionably been found. However, many questions remain unanswered, including several which affect their therapeutic significance. The SNPs individually have minor effects, and even cumulatively explain only a modest fraction of the genetic predisposition. The remainder likely results from many more loci, from rare variants, and from gene-gene and gene-environment interactions. The risk SNPs are almost all non-coding, meaning that their biological significance is unclear; probably their effects are mediated via an influence on gene regulation, and emerging evidence suggests that some key molecular events occur during early brain development. The loci include novel genes of unknown function as well as genes and pathways previously implicated in the pathophysiology of schizophrenia, e.g. NMDA receptor signalling. Genes in the latter category have the clearer therapeutic potential, although even this will be a challenging process because of the many complexities concerning the genetic architecture and mediating mechanisms. This review summarises recent schizophrenia genetic findings and some key issues they raise, particularly with regard to their implications for identifying and validating novel drug targets.