There are several lines of evidence which suggest that chromosome 4p may contain a major susceptibility locus for the functional psychoses. We previously reported a family (family 50) with cases of schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder which gave maximum lod scores of 1.96 and 1.84 respectively with the markers D4S403 and a microsatellite near to DRD5 (DRD5-M). More recently Blackwood and co-workers described a family segregating bipolar and unipolar affective disorders which gives a maximum lod score of 4.1 with the marker D4S394, which lies 10 cM from D4S403. They obtained a combined maximum lod of 3.3 in their total sample of 12 bipolar families and found significant evidence of heterogeneity (chi 2 = 18.8, df = 2, P = 0.00008). Here we report the results of a linkage study of chromosome 4p markers in a sample of 24 multiply affected families with schizophrenia and related disorders. We obtained an overall maximum lod of 1.12 with D4S403 under both dominant and recessive modes of transmission, with no statistical support for heterogeneity within our sample. Examination of family by family data shows that only family 50 appears to show linkage at this locus. However, a discrepancy exists since our study examined families fulfilling criteria for a linkage study of schizophrenia while Blackwood et al examined families included in a genetic linkage study of bipolar disorder. This may be explained by the clinical features displayed by members of family 50, which show that all the affected members have some affective symptoms. It is therefore possible that a broad phenotype including unipolar depression, bipolar disorder, schizoaffective disorder and schizophrenia when accompanied by significant affective symptoms can result from mutations within a gene in this region. The dopamine D5 receptor gene lies within the region identified by the linkage studies and is therefore a major candidate for the putative disease gene. In family 50 we have looked for mutations of DRD5 by sequence analysis of the coding region and single stranded conformational polymorphism (SSCP) analysis of the promoter. SSCP analysis of the coding and promoter regions have also been carried out in unrelated cases of DSM-IIIR schizophrenia. Finally association studies of the (TC)n repeat in the promoter and schizophrenia, and DRD5-M and bipolar disorder were performed. These studies provided no further evidence supporting the possibility that mutations in DRD5 give rise to the linkage findings or are acting as susceptibility loci in schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.