Many diseases caused by trinucleotide expansion exhibit increased severity and decreased age of onset (genetic anticipation) in successive generations. Apparent evidence of genetic anticipation in schizophrenia has led to a search for trinucleotide repeat expansions. We have used several techniques, including Southern blot hybridization, repeat expansion detection (RED) and locus-specific PCR to search for expanded CAG/CTG repeats in 12 families from the United Kingdom and 11 from Iceland that are multiplex for schizophrenia and demonstrate anticipation. The unstable DNA theory could also explain discordance of phenotype for schizophrenia in pairs of monozygotic twins, where the affected twin has a greater number of repeats than the unaffected twin. We used these techniques to look for evidence of different CAG/CTG repeat size in 27 pairs of monozygotic twins who are either concordant or discordant for schizophrenia. We have found no evidence of an increase in CAG/CTG repeat size for affected members in the families, or for the affected twins in the MZ twin sample. Southern hybridization and RED analysis were also performed for the twin and family samples to look for evidence of expansion of GAA/TTC repeats. However, no evidence of expansion was found in either sample. Whilst these results suggest that these repeats are not involved in the etiology of schizophrenia, the techniques used for detecting repeat expansions have limits to their sensitivity. The involvement of other trinucleotide repeats or other expandable repeat sequences cannot be ruled out.
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