Familial transmission of schizophrenia in Palau: A 20-year genetic epidemiological study in three generations

Marina Myles-Worsley, Josepha Tiobech, Francisca Blailes, Frank A. Middleton, Sophia Vinogradov, William Byerley, Stephen V. Faraone

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Our genetic epidemiological studies of schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders (SCZ) in the isolated population of Palau have been ongoing for 20 years. Results from the first decade showed that Palau has an elevated prevalence of SCZ and that cases cluster in extended multigenerational pedigrees interconnected via complex genetic relationships after centuries of endogamous, but not consanguineous, marriages. The aim of our second decade of research, which extended data collection into a third generation of young, high-risk (HR) Palauans, was to identify significant predictors of intergenerational transmission of illness. Our findings revealed that degree of familial loading and gender effects on reproductive fitness are important modifiers of risk for transmission of SCZ. Among 45 distinct multiplex families, we identified 10 high-density (HD) Palauan families, each with 7-29 SCZ cases, which contain half of Palau's 260 SCZ cases and 80% of the 113 SCZ cases with one or more affected first-degree relatives, indicating that familial loading is a major risk factor for SCZ in Palau. Cases that belong to multiply affected sibships are more common than cases with an affected parent. Furthermore, only 6/38 multiply affected sibships have an affected parent, strong evidence that many unaffected parents are obligate carriers of susceptibility genes. Although reproductive fitness is dramatically reduced in affected males, the 30% minority who do become fathers are twice as likely as affected mothers to transmit SCZ to an offspring. As they evolve, these HD families can help to elucidate the genetic mechanisms that predict intergenerational transmission of SCZ.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)247-254
Number of pages8
JournalAmerican Journal of Medical Genetics, Part B: Neuropsychiatric Genetics
Issue number3
StatePublished - Apr 2011


  • High-density multiplex pedigrees
  • High-risk offspring
  • Population isolate
  • Psychotic disorders
  • Schizophrenia


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