Autoimmune Concept of Schizophrenia: Historical Roots and Current Facets

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BACKGROUND: The review analyzes the possible role of autoimmune processes in the pathogenesis of schizophrenia and the evolution of concepts on this issue from its origin to the present.

RESULTS: Risks of autoimmune processes causing schizophrenia are associated with several factors: an impaired functioning of dopaminergic and glutamatergic systems in the brain, kynurenine pathway disorder with overproduction of quinolinic, anthranilic, and kynurenic acids (possibly altering both neurons and T-regulators), increased intestinal permeability, as well as food antigens' effects, stress and infections with various pathogens at different stages of ontogenesis. An increase in the levels of proinflammatory cytokines and chemokines as well as a decrease in the levels of anti-inflammatory ones also may contribute to schizophrenia risks. Schizophrenia often occurs in those patients having various autoimmune diseases and their first-degree relatives.

CONCLUSION: Cases of schizophrenia resulted from autoimmune pathogenesis (including autoimmune encephalitis caused by autoantibodies against various neuronal antigens) are characterized by quite severe cognitive and psychotic symptoms and a less favorable prognosis. This severe course may result from the chronic immune damage of the neuronal receptors such as NMDA, GABA, and others and depend on hyperprolactinemia, induced by antipsychotics, but aggravating autoimmune processes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3-17
JournalPsychiatria Danubina
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Apr 2021

Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)


  • risk of schizophrenia
  • autoimmune processes
  • proinflammatory cytokines and chemokines

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