Mom-to-Daughter Gene May Help Spur Schizophrenia

It's not clear whether the same dynamic works in boys, researchers say

FRIDAY, Sept. 29, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- Daughters with a specific immune gene that too closely resembles their mother's version of the gene are more likely to develop schizophrenia later in life, new research shows.

A developing fetus inherits one copy of the HLA-B gene from each parent. The HLA-B gene belongs to a family of genes that help the immune system distinguish between the body's own proteins and those made by viruses and bacteria.

In the study, researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles, analyzed DNA from 274 families, including a total of 484 children who'd been diagnosed with schizophrenia or a related disorder.

The study found that daughters whose HLA-B genes closely matched their mothers' HLA-B genes were 70 percent more likely to develop schizophrenia than other children. If this risk factor could be removed, up to 12 percent of cases of schizophrenia in daughters might be prevented, the researchers said.

The study is published in the October issue of the American Journal of Human Genetics.

"Our findings clearly suggest that schizophrenia risk rises, especially in daughters, when the child's HLA-B gene too closely matches its mother's. We don't know whether sons who match are not affected, or are more affected and less likely to come to term," Christina Palmer, UCLA associate professor of psychiatry and human genetics and a researcher at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior, said in a prepared statement.

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about schizophrenia.

SOURCE: UCLA, news release, September 2006
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