Immune involvement in schizophrenia and autism: etiology, pathology and animal models

Behav Brain Res. 2009 Dec 7;204(2):313-21. doi: 10.1016/j.bbr.2008.12.016. Epub 2008 Dec 24.


There is increasing evidence of immune involvement in both schizophrenia and autism. Of particular interest are striking abnormalities in the expression of immune-related molecules such as cytokines in the brain and cerebral spinal fluid (CSF). It is proposed that this represents a permanent state of brain immune dysregulation, which begins during early development. One possibility is that maternal infection, a known risk factor for schizophrenia and autism, sets this immune activation in motion. Several animal models are being used to investigate this hypothesis. There is also recent evidence that, among schizophrenic subjects, those associated with maternal infection display a distinctive pathology, which suggests that diverse causes for this disorder may explain some of its heterogeneity. The human and animal results related to immune involvement suggest novel therapeutic avenues based on immune interventions.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Autistic Disorder / etiology*
  • Autistic Disorder / immunology
  • Autistic Disorder / pathology*
  • Brain / immunology
  • Cytokines / immunology
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Inflammation Mediators / immunology
  • Influenza, Human / immunology
  • Mice
  • Periodontal Diseases / immunology
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications, Infectious / immunology*
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects / immunology
  • Rabbits
  • Rats
  • Risk Factors
  • Schizophrenia / etiology*
  • Schizophrenia / immunology
  • Schizophrenia / pathology*


  • Cytokines
  • Inflammation Mediators