A Genetics Perspective on the Role of the (Neuro)Immune System in Schizophrenia

Rebecca Birnbaum, Daniel R. Weinberger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


The immune system has long been hypothesized to play a role in schizophrenia pathogenesis based on data from diverse disciplines. Recent reports of the identification of schizophrenia-associated genetic variants and their initial biological characterization have renewed investigation of the role of the immune system in schizophrenia. In the current review, the plausibility of a role of the immune system in schizophrenia pathogenesis is examined, by revisiting epidemiology, neuroimaging, pharmacology, and developmental biology from a genetics perspective, as well as by synthesizing diverse findings from the emerging and dynamic schizophrenia genomics field. Genetic correlations between schizophrenia and immunological disorders are inconsistent and often contradictory, as are neuroimaging studies of microglia markers. Small therapeutic trials of anti-inflammatory agents targeting immune function have been consistently negative. Some gene expression analyses of post-mortem brains of patients with schizophrenia have reported an upregulation of genes of immune function though others report downregulation, and overall transcriptome profiling to date does not support an upregulation of immune pathways associated with schizophrenia genetic risk. The currently reviewed genetic data do not converge to reveal consistent evidence of the neuroimmune system in schizophrenia pathogenesis, and indeed, a substantive role for the neuroimmune system in schizophrenia has yet to be established.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)105-113
Number of pages9
JournalSchizophrenia Research
StatePublished - Mar 2020


  • Gene expression
  • Genetics
  • Human brain
  • Immunity
  • Inflammation
  • Schizophrenia


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