Increased levels of midbrain immune-related transcripts in schizophrenia and in murine offspring after maternal immune activation
- Journal Article
Rights / licenseCreative Commons Attribution 4.0 International
The pathophysiology of dopamine dysregulation in schizophrenia involves alterations at the ventral midbrain level. Given that inflammatory mediators such as cytokines influence the functional properties of midbrain dopamine neurons, midbrain inflammation may play a role in schizophrenia by contributing to presynaptic dopamine abnormalities. Thus, we quantified inflammatory markers in dopaminergic areas of the midbrain of people with schizophrenia and matched controls. We also measured these markers in midbrain of mice exposed to maternal immune activation (MIA) during pregnancy, an established risk factor for schizophrenia and other psychiatric disorders. We found diagnostic increases in SERPINA3, TNFα, IL1β, IL6, and IL6ST transcripts in schizophrenia compared with controls (p < 0.02–0.001). The diagnostic differences in these immune markers were accounted for by a subgroup of schizophrenia cases (~ 45%, 13/28) showing high immune status. Consistent with the human cohort, we identified increased expression of immune markers in the midbrain of adult MIA offspring (SERPINA3, TNFα, and IL1β mRNAs, all p ≤ 0.01), which was driven by a subset of MIA offspring (~ 40%, 13/32) with high immune status. There were no diagnostic (human cohort) or group-wise (mouse cohort) differences in cellular markers indexing the density and/or morphology of microglia or astrocytes, but an increase in the transcription of microglial and astrocytic markers in schizophrenia cases and MIA offspring with high inflammation. These data demonstrate that immune-related changes in schizophrenia extend to dopaminergic areas of the midbrain and exist in the absence of changes in microglial cell number, but with putative evidence of microglial and astrocytic activation in the high immune subgroup. MIA may be one of the contributing factors underlying persistent neuroimmune changes in the midbrain of people with schizophrenia. Show more
Journal / seriesMolecular Psychiatry
Pages / Article No.
PublisherNature Publishing Group
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