Among the different dopamine receptors, the D4 dopamine receptor is of particular interest in schizophrenia because of its high affinity for the atypical neuroleptic clozapine. Recently, the gene for the D4 dopamine receptor has been cloned and a new and intriguing polymorphism has been described. Different versions of the receptor have varying affinity for clozapine, and thus variant forms of D4 with differing pharmacologic activity exist in the human population. Our hypothesis was that these variants play a role in susceptibility to psychotic illness. Thus, our objective was to test the D4 dopamine receptor genes for linkage to schizophrenia.
Our genetic linkage study was carried out in a large Italian kindred segregating schizophrenia. Diagnoses were made by using a structured clinical interview and a consensus diagnosis was established. For the computer analysis, 80 members of the family were constructed into a linked set of relatives with 15 of these individuals affected by schizophrenia. The functional variants of the D4 dopamine receptor gene were identified by a combination of Southern blot techniques and the polymerase chain reation. The gene for tyrosine hydroxylase (TH) was also tested for linkage to schizophrenia in this family. Linkage analyses were done with both a single-locus and a two-locus model.
Our results revealed significantly negative lod scores in the region of the D4 dopamine receptor gene and the TH gene. The application of different models of transmission for schizophrenia had an effect on the magnitude of the lod scores, but did not modify the direction of the results.
Our results provide significant evidence for exclusion for linkage between schizophrenia and the dopamine D4 receptor gene and the TH gene under the models specified. Furthermore, we tabulated the distribution of D4 dopamine gene variants in the diseased vs healthy individuals in the family and the results showed that no specific form of the receptor gene is significantly asociated with the presence of schizophrenia in the family. Our study does not exclude the possibility that regulatory elements of the D4 dopamine gene located elsewhere in the genome may be involved in the etiology of schizophrenia.