Schizophrenia and affective disorders are relatively common neuropsychiatric diseases with a complex genetic etiology. A multigenic inheritance with variable influence of unknown environmental factors may be involved. Family studies have demonstrated the existence of both phenotypes in the same kindreds, and in certain cases, a transition from one phenotype to another occurs. In addition, intermediate phenotypes such as schizoaffective disorders are found in families with schizophrenia and affective illness. Recent genome and chromosomal scans appear to support these epidemiologic data, since susceptibility regions for both schizophrenia and affective disorders have been found to overlap, on chromosomes 10p13-p12, 13q32, 18p and 22q11-q13. These studies were performed in independently ascertained family samples with index patients afflicted either with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. Taken together, these findings imply shared loci for schizophrenia and affective disorders among those required for the full expression of the phenotype. Identification and molecular characterization of the genetic components conferring risk to both disorders would impact positively on diagnosis, prevention, and treatment. (C) 1999 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.