Inflammation in psychosis: Impact on brain structure and symptoms in animal models and humans
AuthorLaskaris, Liliana Ellin
Document TypePhD thesis
Access StatusOpen Access
© 2019 Liliana Ellin Laskaris
Schizophrenia is a severe neuropsychiatric disorder, arising in adolescence and early adulthood and characterised by hallucinations, delusions, blunted affect and disorganised thought patterns. One of the most enduring features of schizophrenia and psychosis are structural brain deficits, whose pathophysiological mechanism is unknown. Accumulating evidence indicates that inflammation both peripherally and centrally in the form of increased activation of the brain’s immune cells, microglia, may be a potential cause of structural deficits in psychosis. The evidence is multi-faceted ranging from mouse models that demonstrate increased numbers of microglia, to clinical studies of patients with schizophrenia showing increased pro- inflammatory molecules within peripheral blood. However, there are still many questions that remain unanswered, including whether inflammation varies across stages of psychosis, whether it is related to structural brain deficits and symptomatology and how inflammation identified in schizophrenia relates to other candidate pathways implicated in psychosis. In this thesis a multi-disciplinary approach was adopted, considered appropriate to tackling the complexity of these questions. Firstly, to determine whether inflammation was associated with other candidate pathways implicated in psychosis, we conducted an animal study, utilising an mGluR5 KO mouse model of psychosis. Glutamate has been shown to influence neuroinflammation, with cellular studies demonstrating that mGluR5 can regulate microglial numbers and activation. At the time of conducting the study, there were no satisfactory mGluR5 PET ligands that enabled in vivo monitoring within the clinical population. The mGluR5 KO mouse had been shown to display neuropsychiatric endophenotypes related to schizophrenia and thereby offered an alternative approach to gaining further insight into the role of mGluR5 in neuroinflammation and how this may impact symptoms associated with psychosis. Our aim was to determine whether neuroinflammation, in the form of increased microglial numbers and activation was present in the mGluR5 KO mouse model thereby giving further insight as to the potential interaction of the glutamatergic system and in particular, mGluR5, with microglial homeostasis. Secondly, we aimed to determine whether peripheral inflammation was related to brain structure and clinical symptomatology. This was executed by conducting two clinical studies, that examined peripheral pro- and anti-inflammatory cytokines and complement proteins in relation to brain regional thickness and volume measurements. We used a multiplex enzyme linked immune-absorbent assays (ELISA) in serum to quantify peripheral cytokines and complement proteins across various stages of psychosis ranging from those at ultra-high risk of psychosis (UHR), to individuals experiencing their first episode (FEP) and subjects with chronic schizophrenia. We sought to determine whether circulating cytokine and complement protein levels were associated with clinical symptomatology and measurements of thickness and brain volume detected using structural magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). This thesis aimed to investigate: 1) whether mGluR5 KO mice, which demonstrate phenotypic features of schizophrenia displayed neuroinflammation in the form of increased microglial numbers when compared to their wildtype littermates 2) whether there was a relationship between cytokine or complement proteins and structural brain measurements across UHR, FEP and chronic schizophrenia 3) whether peripheral inflammatory markers (cytokine or complement proteins) were increased or decreased across stages of psychosis and examine their relationship with clinical symptoms. We found that mGluR5 KO mice have increased microglial numbers compared to WT. This agreed with our hypothesis that animals lacking mGluR5, would show higher rates of inflammation in the brain, in accordance with an anti-inflammatory effect of increased mGluR5 signalling and the psychotic endophenotype of these mice. Our findings indicate that mGluR5 may affect microglial homeostasis in the context of neurodevelopment and may impact on psychosis related behaviours exhibited by mGluR5 KO mice. Secondly, our clinical studies showed that cytokines and complement proteins were related to several brain structures implicated in psychosis, including the frontal cortex and ventricles. We revealed a positive correlation between several anti-inflammatory cytokines such as IL4 and IL13 and increases in frontal cortical thickness, which was absent in patients with psychosis. Conversely, increases in pro-inflammatory cytokine IL5 were associated with decreases in whole brain volume in FEP individuals. Thirdly, we found that while peripheral cytokines did not differ significantly between patients and controls, complement proteins were elevated in UHR and chronic schizophrenia patients. While there were no associations between cytokine proteins and clinical symptoms, we identified a molecular pattern of increased C4 and decreased C3 protein, which was associated with increases in positive and negative symptoms. Taken together, the work of this thesis suggests that inflammation is present in psychosis both in the brain and peripherally but that this depends on the proteins and stage of illness examined. Moreover, we revealed that complement proteins C3 and C4 were associated with alterations in brain structure across the combined cohort; in the case of cytokines however, the positive association between elevated anti-inflammatory cytokines and increased frontal thickness was not preserved or reversed in patient groups, indicating a potential imbalance of pro- and anti- inflammatory cytokines may influence brain structure in psychosis. Finally, we have shown that peripheral inflammation in the form of cytokine and complement proteins, may influence both brain structure and clinical symptomatology, which provides fertile ground for future longitudinal exploration of neuroinflammation in schizophrenia and psychosis.
Keywordsschizophrenia; psychosis; inflammation; peripheral biomarkers; mGluR5; imaging; animal models
- Click on "Export Reference in RIS Format" and choose "open with... Endnote".
- Click on "Export Reference in RIS Format". Login to Refworks, go to References => Import References