The Immune System and Schizophrenia: An Integrative View


a Address for correspondence: Prof. Dr. med. Dipl.-Psych. Norbert Müller, Psychiatrische Klinik der Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität, Nuβbaumstr. 7, 80336 München, Germany. Voice: 089-5160-3397; fax: 089-5160-4548.


Abstract: Immune alterations in schizophrenia have been described for decades. Modern immunological methods and new insights into the highly developed and functionally differentiated immune system allow an integrative view of both the older and the recent findings of immunological abnormalities in schizophrenia. Both the unspecific and the specific arms of the immune system seem to be involved in the dysfunction of the immune system in schizophrenia. The unspecific, “innate” immune system shows signs of over-activation in unmedicated schizophrenic patients, as indicated by increased monocytes and γδ-cells. Increased levels of interleukin-6 (IL-6) and the activation of the IL-6 system in schizophrenia might be the result of the activation of monocytes/macrophages, too. On the other hand, several parameters of the specific cellular immune system are blunted, such as, for example, the decreased T helper-1 (TH-1)-related immune parameters in schizophrenic patients both in vitro and in vivo. It seems that a TH-1-TH-2 imbalance with a shift to the TH-2 system is associated with schizophrenia. During antipsychotic therapy with neuroleptics, the specific TH-1-related immune answer becomes activated, but in addition the B cell system and antibody production increase.