Genetics of antipsychotic-induced side effects and agranulocytosis

Curr Psychiatry Rep. 2011 Apr;13(2):156-65. doi: 10.1007/s11920-011-0185-3.


Antipsychotic medication has been enormously helpful in the treatment of psychotic symptoms during the past several decades. Unfortunately, several important side effects that can cause significant morbidity and mortality. The two most common are abnormal involuntary movements (tardive dyskinesia) and weight gain progressing through diabetes to metabolic syndrome. A more rare and life-threatening adverse effect is clozapine-induced agranulocytosis (CIA), which has been linked to clozapine use. Clozapine itself has a unique position among antipsychotic medications, representing the treatment of choice in refractory schizophrenia. Unfortunately, the potential risk of agranulocytosis, albeit small, prevents the widespread use of clozapine. Very few genetic determinants have been clearly associated with CIA due to small sample sizes and lack of replication in subsequent studies. The HLA system has been the main hypothesized region of interest in the study of CIA, and several gene variants in this region have been implicated, particularly variants of the HLA-DQB1 locus. A preliminary genome-wide association study has been conducted on a small sample for CIA, and a signal from the HLA region was noted. However, efforts to identify key gene mechanisms that will be useful in predicting antipsychotic side effects in the clinical setting have not been fully successful, and further studies with larger sample sizes are required.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Agranulocytosis / chemically induced
  • Agranulocytosis / genetics*
  • Antipsychotic Agents / adverse effects*
  • Humans
  • Pharmacogenetics
  • Psychotic Disorders / drug therapy
  • Psychotic Disorders / genetics*
  • Weight Gain / drug effects
  • Weight Gain / genetics*


  • Antipsychotic Agents