Schizophrenia is a common and complex mental disorder. Cytogenetic and molecular studies have shown that genetic factors play an important role in the etiology of schizophrenia. As a preliminary step in the search for chromosomal location of a susceptible gene predisposing to schizophrenia, cytogenetic screening of patients might be useful. Therefore, this report is aimed at studying the relationship between chromosomal fragile sites (FS) (gaps, breaks, triradial figures, and several rearrangements) and the etiology of schizophrenia. Because of this, we compared the frequencies of folate-sensitive FS from schizophrenic patients and normal individuals in short-term whole-blood cultures. The rate of FS expression in the patients was considerably higher than in the controls. We determined 15 common FS (cFS) (1q21, 1q32, 2q21, 2q31, 3p14, 4q31, 5q31, 6q21, 6q26, 7q22, 7q32, 10q22, 13q32, Xp22, and Xq22), six rare FS (rFS) (6p21, 8q22, 11q23, 12q24, 16q22, and Xq26), and two previously unknown FS (3p25 and 5q22). Among these expressed FS, there was a significantly higher frequency of 12 FS at 2q31, 3p25, 3p14, 5q31, 6q21, 7q22, 7q32, 10q22, 11q23, 12q24, Xq22, and Xq26 in patient group than in controls by chi(2)-test (P between 0.0001 to 0.036). Sites 3p14, 5q31, and 7q22 were also the most frequently observed cFS. Males exhibited twice as many FS as females, but no age effects were observed. The potential relationship between increased FS frequency and the occurrence of schizophrenia in these patients is discussed.