Abstract and Keywords
It has long been known that the human genome is subject to deletion and duplication of genetic material by various molecular mechanisms. Until recently, such events were assumed to be relatively rare phenomena. It is now known that submicroscopic deletions or duplications called copy number variants (CNVs) are a major source of genomic variation. Rare CNVs (defined as occurring in less than 1 percent of the population) have been implicated in schizophrenia and autism. Measured in terms of odds ratios, individual CNVs have been shown to have large effects, some increasing the risk of disorder several-fold. But they are incompletely penetrant, no one CNV is either necessary or sufficient to cause the disorder. The findings are less clear-cut with bipolar disorder but, here, too, rare CNVs probably play a role. In unipolar depression, initial evidence suggests an overall increase in rare CNVs that disrupt exons, the coding regions of genes.
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