Inflammatory molecular signature associated with infectious agents in psychosis

Lindsay N. Hayes, Emily G. Severance, Jeffrey T. Leek, Kristin L. Gressitt, Cathrin Rohleder, Jennifer M. Coughlin, F. Markus Leweke, Robert H. Yolken, Akira Sawa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Schizophrenia (SZ) is a devastating mental condition with onset in young adulthood. The identification of molecular biomarkers that reflect illness pathology is crucial. Recent evidence suggested immune and inflammatory cascades in conjunction with infection may play a role in the pathology. To address this question, we investigated molecular changes in cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) from antipsychoticnaïve patients with SZ and at risk mental status for psychosis (ARMS), in comparison with healthy controls (HCs). We measured 90 analytes using a broad multiplex platform focusing on immune and inflammatory cascades then selected 35 with our quality reporting criteria for further analysis. We also examined Toxoplasma gondii (TG) and herpes simplex virus 1 antibody levels in CSF. We report that expression of 15 molecules was significantly altered in the patient groups (SZ and ARMS) compared with HCs. The majority of these molecular changes (alpha-2-macroglobulin [a2M], fibrinogen, interleukin-6 receptor [IL- 6R], stem cell factor [SCF], transforming growth factor alpha [TGFa], tumor necrosis factor receptor 2 [TNFR2], IL-8, monocyte chemotactic protein 2 [MCP-2/CCL8], testosterone [for males], angiotensin converting enzyme [ACE], and epidermal growth factor receptor) were consistent between SZ and ARMS patients, suggesting these may represent trait changes associated with psychotic conditions in general. Interestingly, many of these analytes (a2M, fibrinogen, IL-6R, SCF, TGFa, TNFR2, IL-8, MCP-2/CCL8, and testosterone [for males]) were exacerbated in subjects with ARMS compared with subjects with SZ. Although further studies are needed, we optimistically propose that these molecules may be good candidates for predictive markers for psychosis from an early stage. Lastly, reduction of IL-6R, TGFa, and ACE was correlated with positivity of TG antibody in the CSF, suggesting possible involvement of TG infection in the pathology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)963-972
Number of pages10
JournalSchizophrenia bulletin
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2014


  • At risk mental status
  • Biomarker
  • Cerebrospinal fluid
  • Inflammation
  • Schizophrenia
  • Toxoplasma gondii

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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