The molecular-genetic basis of non-mendelian, genetically influenced disorders (complex disorders) is beginning to be uncovered. Recently, major progress in localization and detection of disposition genes of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder was achieved. We provide a comprehensive overview of recent results of linkage and association studies in schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Several disposition genes for schizophrenia (DTNBP1, NRG1, G72) were identified, whereas evidence for specific disposition genes in bipolar disorder is more limited. Multiple limitations of current research strategies in the search of disposition genes of complex disorders have to be considered; alternative phenotype definitions, genome-wide association studies and parallel investigation of epigenetic misregulations might overcome these limitations.