Evidence for Altered Metabolism of Sphingosine-1-Phosphate in the Corpus Callosum of Patients with Schizophrenia

Schizophr Bull. 2020 Sep 21;46(5):1172-1181. doi: 10.1093/schbul/sbaa052.


The disturbed integrity of myelin and white matter, along with dysregulation of the lipid metabolism, may be involved in schizophrenia pathophysiology. Considering the crucial role of sphingolipids in neurodevelopment, particularly in oligodendrocyte differentiation and myelination, we examined the role of sphingolipid dynamics in the pathophysiology of schizophrenia. We performed targeted mass spectrometry-based analysis of sphingolipids from the cortical area and corpus callosum of postmortem brain samples from patients with schizophrenia and controls. We observed lower sphingosine-1-phosphate (S1P) levels, specifically in the corpus callosum of patients with schizophrenia, but not in major depressive disorder or bipolar disorder, when compared with the controls. Patient data and animal studies showed that antipsychotic intake did not contribute to the lowered S1P levels. We also found that lowered S1P levels in the corpus callosum of patients with schizophrenia may stem from the upregulation of genes for S1P-degrading enzymes; higher expression of genes for S1P receptors suggested a potential compensatory mechanism for the lowered S1P levels. A higher ratio of the sum of sphingosine and ceramide to S1P, which can induce apoptosis and cell-cycle arrest, was also observed in the samples of patients with schizophrenia than in controls. These results suggest that an altered S1P metabolism may underlie the deficits in oligodendrocyte differentiation and myelin formation, leading to the structural and molecular abnormalities of white matter reported in schizophrenia. Our findings may pave the way toward a novel therapeutic strategy.

Keywords: S1P receptor; corpus callosum; gene expression; schizophrenia; sphingosine-1-phosphate (S1P).