Schizophrenia is a debilitating lifelong disorder affecting up to 1% of the population worldwide, producing significant financial and emotional hardship for patients and their families. As yet, the causes of schizophrenia and the mechanism of action of antipsychotic drugs are unknown, and many patients do not respond well to currently available medications. Attempts to find risk factors for the disorder using epidemiological methods have shown that schizophrenia is highly heritable, and path analyses predict that the disorder is caused by several genes in combination with nongenetic factors. Therefore, intensive research efforts have been made to identify genes creating vulnerability to schizophrenia and also genes predicting response to treatment. Interactions of the glutamatergic system with dopaminergic and serotonergic circuitry are crucial for normal brain function, and their disruption may be a mechanism by which the pathophysiology of schizophrenia is manifest. Genes within the glutamatergic system are therefore strong candidates for investigation, and these include the glutamate receptor genes in addition to genes encoding neuregulin, dysbindin, D-amino acid oxidase and G72/G30. These genetic studies could eventually reveal new targets for antipsychotic drug treatment, which currently focuses on inhibition of the dopaminergic system. However, a recent breakthrough indicates clinical efficacy of a drug stimulating the metabotropic glutamate receptor II, LY2140023, which has improved efficacy for negative and cognitive symptoms of schizophrenia. Studies of larger patient samples are required to consolidate these data. Further investigation of glutamatergic targets is likely to reinvigorate antipsychotic drug development. © 2008 Expert Reviews Ltd.