Irish study on high-density schizophrenia families: field methods and power to detect linkage

K S Kendler, F A O'Neill, J Burke, B Murphy, F Duke, R E Straub, R Shinkwin, M Ni Nuallain, C J MacLean, D Walsh

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Large samples of multiplex pedigrees will probably be needed to detect susceptibility loci for schizophrenia by linkage analysis. Standardized ascertainment of such pedigrees from culturally and ethnically homogeneous populations may improve the probability of detection and replication of linkage. The Irish Study of High-Density Schizophrenia Families (ISHDSF) was formed from standardized ascertainment of multiplex schizophrenia families in 39 psychiatric facilities covering over 90% of the population in Ireland and Northern Ireland. We here describe a phenotypic sample and a subset thereof, the linkage sample. Individuals were included in the phenotypic sample if adequate diagnostic information, based on personal interview and/or hospital record, was available. Only individuals with available DNA were included in the linkage sample. Inclusion of a pedigree into the phenotypic sample required at least two first, second, or third degree relatives with non-affective psychosis (NAP), one whom had schizophrenia (S) or poor-outcome schizo-affective disorder (PO-SAD). Entry into the linkage sample required DNA samples on at least two individuals with NAP, of whom at least one had S or PO-SAD. Affection was defined by narrow, intermediate, and broad criteria. The phenotypic sample contained 277 pedigrees and 1,770 individuals and the linkage sample 265 pedigrees and 1,408 individuals. Using the intermediate definition of affection, the phenotypic sample contained 837 affected individuals and 526 affected sibling pairs. Parallel figures for the linkage sample were 700 and 420. Individuals with schizophrenia from these multiplex pedigrees resembled epidemiologically sampled cases with respect to age at onset, gender distribution, and most clinical symptoms, although they were more thought-disordered and had a poorer outcome. Power analyses based on the model of linkage heterogeneity indicated that the ISHDSF should be able to detect a major locus that influences susceptibility to schizophrenia in as few as 20% of families. Compared to first-degree relatives of epidemiologically sampled schizophrenic probands, first-degree relatives of schizophrenic members from the ISHDSF had a similar risk for schizotypal personality disorder, affective illness, alcoholism, and anxiety disorder. With sufficient resources, large-scale ascertainment of multiplex schizophrenia pedigrees is feasible, especially in countries with catchmented psychiatric care and stable populations. Although somewhat more severely ill, schizophrenic members of such pedigrees appear to clinically resemble typical schizophrenic patients. Our ascertainment process for multiplex schizophrenia families did not select for excess familial risk for affective illness or alcoholism. With its large sample ascertained in a standardized manner from a relatively homogeneous population, the ISHDSF provides considerable power to detect susceptibility loci for schizophrenia.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)179-90
Number of pages12
JournalAmerican Journal of Medical Genetics
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 09 Apr 1996


  • Adult
  • Genetic Linkage
  • Humans
  • Ireland
  • Models, Statistical
  • Phenotype
  • Risk Factors
  • Schizophrenia


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