The genes for major psychosis: aberrant sequence or regulation?

Neuropsychopharmacology. 2000 Jul;23(1):1-12. doi: 10.1016/S0893-133X(00)00127-5.


A number of recent clinical and molecular observations in major psychosis indicate that epigenetic factors may be operational in the origin of major mental illness. This article further develops the idea that epigenetic factors may play an etiopathogenic role in schizophrenia and bipolar affective disorder. The putative role of epigenetic factors is shown by the epigenetic interpretation of genetic association studies of the genes for serotonin 2A (HTR2A) and the dopamine D3 (DRD3) receptors in schizophrenia. The idea of epigenetic polymorphism of genetic alleles is introduced, and it is argued that epigenetic variation may explain a number of controversial and unclear findings in allelic and genotypic association studies of HTR2A and DRD3. In linkage analyses of multiplex families with bipolar affective disorder (BPAD), different loci on chromosome 18 indicated co-segregation of alleles of one parental sex with the disease phenotype, and this finding implies that the epigenetic mechanism of genomic imprinting may be involved. Evidence for genomic imprinting provides the background for epigenetic cloning of BPAD risk factors by searching for differentially modified genes on chromosome 18. Finally, epigenetic studies could be relevant to the better understanding of the molecular action of antipsychotic medications. In addition to this, if epimutations are detected in major psychosis, epigenetic treatment directed at correction of epigenetic status of a specific brain gene may eventually be developed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bipolar Disorder / genetics*
  • Chromosomes, Human, Pair 18 / genetics
  • Humans
  • Polymorphism, Genetic / genetics*
  • Psychotic Disorders / genetics
  • Receptor, Serotonin, 5-HT2A
  • Receptors, Dopamine D2 / genetics*
  • Receptors, Dopamine D3
  • Receptors, Serotonin / genetics*
  • Schizophrenia / genetics*


  • DRD3 protein, human
  • Receptor, Serotonin, 5-HT2A
  • Receptors, Dopamine D2
  • Receptors, Dopamine D3
  • Receptors, Serotonin