Neural stem cell proliferation is decreased in schizophrenia, but not in depression

Author(s): Reif A, Fritzen S, Finger M, Strobel A, Lauer M, et al.


The phenomenon of adult neurogenesis (AN), that is, the generation of functional neurons from neural stem cells in the dentate gyrus of the hippocampus, has attracted remarkable attention, especially as it was shown that this process is also active in the human brain. Based on animal studies, it has been suggested that reduced AN is implicated in the etiopathology of psychiatric disorders, and that stimulation of AN contributes to the mechanism of action of antidepressant therapies. As data from human post-mortem brain are still lacking, we investigated whether the first step of AN, that is, the level of neural stem cell proliferation (NSP; as quantified by Ki-67 immunohistochemistry), is altered in tissue from the Stanley Foundation Neuropathology Consortium comprising brain specimens from patients with bipolar affective disorder, major depression, schizophrenia as well as control subjects (n=15 in each group). The hypothesis was that stem cell proliferation is reduced in affective disorders, and that antidepressant treatment increases NSP. Neither age, brain weight or pH, brain hemisphere investigated nor duration of storage had an effect on NSP. Only in bipolar disorder, post-mortem interval was a significant intervening variable. In disease, onset of the disorder and its duration likewise did not affect NSP. Also, cumulative lifetime dose of fluphenazine was not correlated with NSP, and presence of antidepressant treatment did not result in an increase of NSP. Concerning the different diagnostic entities, reduced amounts of newly formed cells were found in schizophrenia, but not in major depression. Our findings suggest that reduced NSP may contribute to the pathogenesis of schizophrenia, whereas the rate of NSP does not seem to be critical to the etiopathology of affective disorders, nor is it modified by antidepressant drug treatment.

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