Schizophrenia is a complex neuropsychiatric disease with documented clinical and genetic heterogeneity, and evidence for neurodevelopmental origins. Driven by new genetic technologies and advances in molecular medicine, there has recently been concrete progress in understanding some of the specific genetic causes of this serious psychiatric illness. In particular, several large rare structural variants have been convincingly associated with schizophrenia, in targeted studies over two decades with respect to 22q11.2 microdeletions, and more recently in large-scale, genome-wide case-control studies. These advances promise to help many families afflicted with this disease. In this review, we critically appraise recent developments in the field of schizophrenia genetics through the lens of immediate clinical applicability. Much work remains in translating the recent surge of genetic research discoveries into the clinic. The epidemiology and basic genetic parameters (such as penetrance and expression) of most genomic disorders associated with schizophrenia are not yet well characterized. To date, 22q11.2 deletion syndrome is the only established genetic subtype of schizophrenia of proven clinical relevance. We use this well-established association as a model to chart the pathway for translating emerging genetic discoveries into clinical practice. We also propose new directions for research involving general genetic risk prediction and counseling in schizophrenia.
Keywords: schizophrenia, genetics, 22q11 deletion syndrome, copy number variation, genetic counseling, genetic predisposition to disease