The inflamed brain in schizophrenia: The convergence of genetic and environmental risk factors that lead to uncontrolled neuroinflammation




Comer, Ashley L.
Carrier, Micaël
Tremblay, Marie-Eve
Cruz-Martín, Alberto

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Frontiers in Cellular Neuroscience


Schizophrenia is a disorder with a heterogeneous etiology involving complex interplay between genetic and environmental risk factors. The immune system is now known to play vital roles in nervous system function and pathology through regulating neuronal and glial development, synaptic plasticity, and behavior. In this regard, the immune system is positioned as a common link between the seemingly diverse genetic and environmental risk factors for schizophrenia. Synthesizing information about how the immune-brain axis is affected by multiple factors and how these factors might interact in schizophrenia is necessary to better understand the pathogenesis of this disease. Such knowledge will aid in the development of more translatable animal models that may lead to effective therapeutic interventions. Here, we provide an overview of the genetic risk factors for schizophrenia that modulate immune function. We also explore environmental factors for schizophrenia including exposure to pollution, gut dysbiosis, maternal immune activation and early-life stress, and how the consequences of these risk factors are linked to microglial function and dysfunction. We also propose that morphological and signaling deficits of the blood-brain barrier, as observed in some individuals with schizophrenia, can act as a gateway between peripheral and central nervous system inflammation, thus affecting microglia in their essential functions. Finally, we describe the diverse roles that microglia play in response to neuroinflammation and their impact on brain development and homeostasis, as well as schizophrenia pathophysiology.


We would like to thank Borislav Dejanovic, Tuan Leng Tay, Thomas Gilmore, and Hana Yeh for critical feedback on the manuscript.


neuroinflammation, microglia, schizophrenia, genes, environment, risk factors, brain development, neurodevelopmental


Comer, A. L., Carrier, M., Tremblay, M-È, & Cruz-Martín, A. (2020). The inflamed brain in schizophrenia: The convergence of genetic and environmental risk factors that lead to uncontrolled neuroinflammation. Frontiers in Cellular Neuroscience, 14, 274.