Schizophrenia is associated with a number of pathological changes, including alterations in levels of specific proteins. Calprotectin is a novel 36 kDa calcium-binding protein of the S100 family and appears to be a nonspecific marker of inflammation. Calprotectin has not previously been investigated in brain tissue. Samples of post-mortem brain tissue from Brodmann area 9 were obtained from prefrontal cortex from subjects with schizophrenia, bipolar affective disorder, major depression, and from controls. Calprotectin levels were determined by ELISA. To determine cellular localization, immunocytochemical and fluorescent double-labelling analyses were performed. Exogenous calprotectin was added to retinoic acid-differentiated human SH-SY5Y neuroblastoma cell cultures in order to investigate mechanisms of action of calprotectin. Calprotectin was detectable in all samples, and mean levels were noted to be highest in schizophrenic brains (P < 0.05) and lowest in controls. Levels were intermediate in bipolar affective disorder and major depression. Exogenous calprotectin appeared to induce dendritic extension in SH-SY5Y cell culture in a dose-dependent manner. Calprotectin was found to be localized to microglia. These findings suggest that increased levels of calprotecitn in the brain may reflect inflammatory processes, which play a role in the pathogenesis of major psychiatric disorders. Furthermore, calprotectin may influence dendritic plasticity.