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Keywords:

  • schizophrenia;
  • psychosis;
  • autism;
  • genomic imprinting;
  • evolution;
  • genomic conflict

Abstract

I review and evaluate genetic and genomic evidence salient to the hypothesis that the development and evolution of psychotic spectrum conditions have been mediated in part by alterations of imprinted genes expressed in the brain. Evidence from the genetics and genomics of schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, major depression, Prader-Willi syndrome, Klinefelter syndrome, and other neurogenetic conditions support the hypothesis that the etiologies of psychotic spectrum conditions commonly involve genetic and epigenetic imbalances in the effects of imprinted genes, with a bias towards increased relative effects from imprinted genes with maternal expression or other genes favouring maternal interests. By contrast, autistic spectrum conditions, including Kanner autism, Asperger syndrome, Rett syndrome, Turner syndrome, Angelman syndrome, and Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome, commonly engender increased relative effects from paternally expressed imprinted genes, or reduced effects from genes favouring maternal interests. Imprinted-gene effects on the etiologies of autistic and psychotic spectrum conditions parallel the diametric effects of imprinted genes in placental and foetal development, in that psychotic spectrum conditions tend to be associated with undergrowth and relatively-slow brain development, whereas some autistic spectrum conditions involve brain and body overgrowth, especially in foetal development and early childhood. An important role for imprinted genes in the etiologies of psychotic and autistic spectrum conditions is consistent with neurodevelopmental models of these disorders, and with predictions from the conflict theory of genomic imprinting.