Postmortem evidence of cerebral inflammation in schizophrenia: a systematic review

Mol Psychiatry. 2016 Aug;21(8):1009-26. doi: 10.1038/mp.2016.90. Epub 2016 Jun 7.


Schizophrenia is a psychiatric disorder which has a lifetime prevalence of ~1%. Multiple candidate mechanisms have been proposed in the pathogenesis of schizophrenia. One such mechanism is the involvement of neuroinflammation. Clinical studies, including neuroimaging, peripheral biomarkers and randomized control trials, have suggested the presence of neuroinflammation in schizophrenia. Many studies have also measured markers of neuroinflammation in postmortem brain samples from schizophrenia patients. The objective of this study was to conduct a systematic search of the literature on neuroinflammation in postmortem brains of schizophrenia patients indexed in MEDLINE, Embase and PsycINFO. Databases were searched up until 20th March 2016 for articles published on postmortem brains in schizophrenia evaluating microglia, astrocytes, glia, cytokines, the arachidonic cascade, substance P and other markers of neuroinflammation. Two independent reviewers extracted the data. Out of 5385 articles yielded by the search, 119 articles were identified that measured neuroinflammatory markers in schizophrenic postmortem brains. Glial fibrillary acidic protein expression was elevated, lower or unchanged in 6, 6 and 21 studies, respectively, and similar results were obtained for glial cell densities. On the other hand, microglial markers were increased, lower or unchanged in schizophrenia in 11, 3 and 8 studies, respectively. Results were variable across all other markers, but SERPINA3 and IFITM were consistently increased in 4 and 5 studies, respectively. Despite the variability, some studies evaluating neuroinflammation in postmortem brains in schizophrenia suggest an increase in microglial activity and other markers such as SERPINA3 and IFITM. Variability across studies is partially explained by multiple factors including brain region evaluated, source of the brain, diagnosis, age at time of death, age of onset and the presence of suicide victims in the cohort.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Astrocytes / metabolism
  • Autopsy
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Brain / physiopathology*
  • Cytokines / metabolism
  • Female
  • Glial Fibrillary Acidic Protein / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / metabolism
  • Male
  • Microglia / metabolism
  • Neuroglia / metabolism
  • Neuroimmunomodulation / physiology*
  • Schizophrenia / pathology*


  • Cytokines
  • Glial Fibrillary Acidic Protein

Grant support