Genetic Link Found Between Five Psychiatric Disorders

February 28, 2013
Psychiatric Disorders DNA

Five major psychiatric disorders—autism spectrum disorder, attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder, bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder, and schizophrenia—share underlying genetic variants, according to the results of a genome-wide analysis published in the online February 28 Lancet.

Researchers examined single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) data in 33,332 cases and 27,888 controls of European ancestry. Using statistical analysis, they sought to determine whether the five disorders have any genetic overlap. 

Results indicated that specific SNPs at four loci showed genome-wide significance, and pathway analysis suggested that calcium-channel signaling genes were involved in the five disorders, reported Jordan W. Smoller, MD, ScD, of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, and colleagues. 

“Our findings show that specific SNPs are associated with a range of psychiatric disorders of childhood onset or adult onset,” the investigators wrote. “These results provide evidence relevant to the goal of moving beyond descriptive syndromes in psychiatry, and towards a nosology informed by disease cause.”

—Lauren LeBano 

View a video of Charles Raison, MD, explaining the implications of this study.


1. Smoller JW, Kendler K, Craddock N, et al. Identification of risk loci with shared effects on five major psychiatric disorders: a genome-wide analysis. Lancet. 2013 Feb 28;[Epub ahead of print].