Endophenotypes, epigenetics, polygenicity and more: Irv Gottesman's dynamic legacy

David L. Braff, Carol A. Tamminga

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


First, we describe the hallmark contributions of Irv Gottesman's pioneering scholarship for schizophrenia research including concepts of polygenicity, gene × environment interactions, epigenetics and the endophenotype concept. Gottesman and colleagues' twin studies showed that genes, not social factors, mediate schizophrenia risk. He then showed that schizophrenia is highly polygenic. Next, he introduced the concept of epigenetics into schizophrenia research. Gottesman then introduced the quantitative endophenotype concept. Endophenotypes are laboratory-based measures that show deficits in schizophrenia patients and lesser deficits in their first degree "unaffected" relatives and are viewed as being more proximal to genes and having a simpler genetic architecture than are "fuzzy" qualitative diagnostic disorders. Endophenotypes offer an exciting path to gene discovery, neural circuits, genetic architecture and new treatment pathways of schizophrenia and related psychotic disorders. Second, we were asked to discuss 2 of many endophenotype Consortia and related studies, in order to illustrate the impact of Gottesman's work. We describe the Consortium on the Genetics of Schizophrenia (COGS) exploring neurocognitive and neurophysiological endophenotypes in family and case-control studies. Association, linkage, sequencing and epigenetic studies are described. The Bipolar and Schizophrenia Network for Intermediate Phenotypes (BSNIP) uses an array of endophenotypes including brain imaging in studies across the psychosis dimension, allowing for dimensional analyses. BSNIP results have led to the concept of biotypes, advancing the field. Irv Gottesman was imaginatively prescient in generating novel insights and predicting many major issues which challenge schizophrenia researchers who still use his concepts to guide current research approaches.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)10-16
Number of pages7
JournalSchizophrenia bulletin
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2017


  • Biomarkers
  • Endophenotypes
  • Genes
  • Gottesman
  • Schizophrenia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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