Linking Inflammation, Aberrant Glutamate-Dopamine Interaction, and Post-synaptic Changes: Translational Relevance for Schizophrenia and Antipsychotic Treatment: a Systematic Review

Mol Neurobiol. 2022 Oct;59(10):6460-6501. doi: 10.1007/s12035-022-02976-3. Epub 2022 Aug 13.


Evidence from clinical, preclinical, and post-mortem studies supports the inflammatory/immune hypothesis of schizophrenia pathogenesis. Less evident is the link between the inflammatory background and two well-recognized functional and structural findings of schizophrenia pathophysiology: the dopamine-glutamate aberrant interaction and the alteration of dendritic spines architecture, both believed to be the "quantal" elements of cortical-subcortical dysfunctional network. In this systematic review, we tried to capture the major findings linking inflammation, aberrant glutamate-dopamine interaction, and post-synaptic changes under a direct and inverse translational perspective, a paramount picture that at present is lacking. The inflammatory effects on dopaminergic function appear to be bidirectional: the inflammation influences dopamine release, and dopamine acts as a regulator of discrete inflammatory processes involved in schizophrenia such as dysregulated interleukin and kynurenine pathways. Furthermore, the link between inflammation and glutamate is strongly supported by clinical studies aimed at exploring overactive microglia in schizophrenia patients and maternal immune activation models, indicating impaired glutamate regulation and reduced N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor (NMDAR) function. In addition, an inflammatory/immune-induced alteration of post-synaptic density scaffold proteins, crucial for downstream NMDAR signaling and synaptic efficacy, has been demonstrated. According to these findings, a significant increase in plasma inflammatory markers has been found in schizophrenia patients compared to healthy controls, associated with reduced cortical integrity and functional connectivity, relevant to the cognitive deficit of schizophrenia. Finally, the link between altered inflammatory/immune responses raises relevant questions regarding potential new therapeutic strategies specifically for those forms of schizophrenia that are resistant to canonical antipsychotics or unresponsive to clozapine.

Keywords: Clozapine; Inflammation; Interleukin; Microglia; Post-synaptic density; Treatment-resistant schizophrenia.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Antipsychotic Agents* / pharmacology
  • Antipsychotic Agents* / therapeutic use
  • Dopamine / metabolism
  • Glutamic Acid / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / drug therapy
  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate / metabolism
  • Schizophrenia* / metabolism


  • Antipsychotic Agents
  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate
  • Glutamic Acid
  • Dopamine