Immune involvement in the pathogenesis of schizophrenia: A meta-analysis on postmortem brain studies

C. F.M.G. Van Kesteren*, H. Gremmels, L. D. De Witte, E. M. Hol, A. R. Van Gool, P. G. Falkai, R. S. Kahn, I. E.C. Sommer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

59 Citations (Scopus)


Although the precise pathogenesis of schizophrenia is unknown, genetic, biomarker and imaging studies suggest involvement of the immune system. In this study, we performed a systematic review and meta-analysis of studies investigating factors related to the immune system in postmortem brains of schizophrenia patients and healthy controls. Forty-one studies were included, reporting on 783 patients and 762 controls. We divided these studies into those investigating histological alterations of cellular composition and those assessing molecular parameters; meta-analyses were performed on both categories. Our pooled estimate on cellular level showed a significant increase in the density of microglia (P=0.0028) in the brains of schizophrenia patients compared with controls, albeit with substantial heterogeneity between studies. Meta-regression on brain regions demonstrated this increase was most consistently observed in the temporal cortex. Densities of macroglia (astrocytes and oligodendrocytes) did not differ significantly between schizophrenia patients and healthy controls. The results of postmortem histology are paralleled on the molecular level, where we observed an overall increase in expression of proinflammatory genes on transcript and protein level (P=0.0052) in patients, while anti-inflammatory gene expression levels were not different between schizophrenia and controls. The results of this meta-analysis strengthen the hypothesis that components of the immune system are involved in the pathogenesis of schizophrenia.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere1075
JournalTranslational Psychiatry [E]
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2017


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