Autophagy and Schizophrenia: A Closer Look at How Dysregulation of Neuronal Cell Homeostasis Influences the Pathogenesis of Schizophrenia

Jaime L. Schneider, Ann M. Miller, Mary E. Woesner


Autophagy, the process of degrading intracellular components in lysosomes, plays an important role in the central nervous system by contributing to neuronal homeostasis. Autophagic failure has been linked to neurologic dysfunction and a variety of neurodegenerative diseases. Recent investigation has revealed a novel role for autophagy in the context of mental illness, namely in schizophrenia. This article summarizes the phenomenology, genetics, and structural/histopathological brain abnormalities associated with schizophrenia. We review studies that demonstrate for the first time a connection between autophagy malfunction and schizophrenia. Transcriptional profiling in schizophrenia patients uncovered a dysregulation of autophagy-related genes spatially confined to a specific area of the cortex, Brodmann Area 22, which has been previously implicated in the positive symptoms of schizophrenia. We also discuss the role of autophagy activators in schizophrenia and whether they may be useful adjuvants to the traditional antipsychotic medications currently used as the standard of care. In summary, the field has progressed beyond the basic concept that autophagy impairment predisposes to neurodegeneration, to a mechanistic understanding that loss of autophagy can disrupt neuronal cell biology and predispose to mood disorders, psychotic symptoms, and behavioral change. 


Autophagy; Schizophrenia; autophagy activators;

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