Schizophrenia is a severe and highly complex neurodevelopmental disorder with an unknown etiopathology. Recently, immunopathogenesis has emerged as one of the most compelling etiological models of schizophrenia. Over the past few years considerable research has been devoted to the role of innate immune responses in schizophrenia. The findings of such studies have helped to conceptualize schizophrenia as a chronic low-grade inflammatory disorder. Although the contribution of adaptive immune responses has also been emphasized, however, the precise role of T cells in the underlying neurobiological pathways of schizophrenia is yet to be ascertained comprehensively. T cells have the ability to infiltrate brain and mediate neuro-immune cross-talk. Conversely, the central nervous system and the neurotransmitters are capable of regulating the immune system. Neurotransmitter like dopamine, implicated widely in schizophrenia risk and progression can modulate the proliferation, trafficking and functions of T cells. Within brain, T cells activate microglia, induce production of pro-inflammatory cytokines as well as reactive oxygen species and subsequently lead to neuroinflammation. Importantly, such processes contribute to neuronal injury/death and are gradually being implicated as mediators of neuroprogressive changes in schizophrenia. Antipsychotic drugs, commonly used to treat schizophrenia are also known to affect adaptive immune system; interfere with the differentiation and functions of T cells. This understanding suggests a pivotal role of T cells in the etiology, course and treatment of schizophrenia and forms the basis of this review.
Keywords: Inflammation; Neurodegeneration; Schizophrenia; T cells.