It is widely held that schizophrenia involves an active process of peripheral inflammation that induces or reflects brain inflammation with activation of microglia, the brain’s resident immune cells. However, recent in vivo radioligand binding studies and large-scale transcriptomics in post-mortem brain report reduced markers of microglial inflammation. The findings suggest a contrary hypothesis; that microglia are diverted into their non-inflammatory synaptic remodelling phenotype that interferes with neurodevelopment and perhaps contributes to the relapsing nature of schizophrenia. Recent discoveries on the regulatory interactions between micro- and astroglial cells and meningeal immune regulatory T cells (Tregs) cohere with clinical omics data to suggest that: i) activated astrocytes mediate the shift in microglial phenotype via the production of transforming growth factor-beta, which also contributes to the disturbances of dopamine and GABA function in schizophrenia, and ii) systemically impaired functioning of Treg cells contributes to the dysregulation of glial function, the low-grade peripheral inflammation, and the hitherto unexplained predisposition to auto-immunity and reduced lifeexpectancy in schizophrenia, including greater COVID-19 mortality.
|Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews
|Accepted/In press - 7 Mar 2021