Distribution of HLA-DR-positive microglia in schizophrenia reflects impaired cerebral lateralization

Acta Neuropathol. 2006 Sep;112(3):305-16. doi: 10.1007/s00401-006-0090-8. Epub 2006 Jun 17.


Immunological alterations have been demonstrated in peripheral blood and cerebrospinal fluid of patients with schizophrenia, while previous postmortem studies have provided an inconsistent picture as to the role of microglia in the context of schizophrenia. Microglial activation is a sensitive indicator of changes in the CNS microenvironment, such as inflammatory and neurodegenerative processes. The aim of the present postmortem study was to examine HLA class II (HLA-DR) expression on microglia in brain regions which are particularly relevant for schizophrenia, with regard to hemispheric lateralization. Dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC), anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), hippocampus and mediodorsal thalamus (MD) were studied in 16 cases with schizophrenia and 16 control subjects. Immunostaining was found in all brain regions and was not restricted to macrophage-like ameboid cells, but also appeared in ramified cells. Region-specific HLA-DR-positive cell density was not significantly different between cases with schizophrenia and controls. However, ameboid microglial cells were lateralized towards the right hemisphere in healthy subjects but not in the schizophrenia group (P=0.01). Postmortem interval correlated with ramified cell numbers in ACC/DLPFC (P=0.01/0.04) and ameboid cell density in hippocampus (P=0.03). Age, gender, duration of disease, medication dosage, storage delay and whole brain volume had no effect. Single case analysis revealed highly elevated microglial cell numbers in ACC and MD of two schizophrenic patients who had committed suicide during acute psychosis. In conclusion, the present data suggest the absence of microgliosis but decreased cerebral lateralization of ameboid microglia in schizophrenia.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Biomarkers
  • Cell Shape / physiology
  • Female
  • Functional Laterality / physiology*
  • Gyrus Cinguli / pathology
  • HLA-DR Antigens / metabolism*
  • Hippocampus / pathology
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Male
  • Microglia / pathology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Prefrontal Cortex / pathology
  • Schizophrenia / pathology*
  • Thalamic Nuclei / pathology
  • Tissue Fixation


  • Biomarkers
  • HLA-DR Antigens