The endophenotype concept in psychiatry: etymology and strategic intentions

Am J Psychiatry. 2003 Apr;160(4):636-45. doi: 10.1176/appi.ajp.160.4.636.


Endophenotypes, measurable components unseen by the unaided eye along the pathway between disease and distal genotype, have emerged as an important concept in the study of complex neuropsychiatric diseases. An endophenotype may be neurophysiological, biochemical, endocrinological, neuroanatomical, cognitive, or neuropsychological (including configured self-report data) in nature. Endophenotypes represent simpler clues to genetic underpinnings than the disease syndrome itself, promoting the view that psychiatric diagnoses can be decomposed or deconstructed, which can result in more straightforward-and successful-genetic analysis. However, to be most useful, endophenotypes for psychiatric disorders must meet certain criteria, including association with a candidate gene or gene region, heritability that is inferred from relative risk for the disorder in relatives, and disease association parameters. In addition to furthering genetic analysis, endophenotypes can clarify classification and diagnosis and foster the development of animal models. The authors discuss the etymology and strategy behind the use of endophenotypes in neuropsychiatric research and, more generally, in research on other diseases with complex genetics.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Family
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease
  • Humans
  • Memory Disorders / genetics
  • Memory Disorders / physiopathology
  • Mental Disorders / epidemiology
  • Mental Disorders / genetics*
  • Mental Disorders / physiopathology
  • Models, Biological*
  • Models, Genetic
  • Phenotype*
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiopathology
  • Psychiatry* / methods
  • Pursuit, Smooth / genetics
  • Pursuit, Smooth / physiology
  • Research Design
  • Risk
  • Saccades / genetics
  • Saccades / physiology
  • Schizophrenia / diagnosis
  • Schizophrenia / genetics
  • Schizophrenia / physiopathology
  • Schizophrenic Psychology
  • Terminology as Topic