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Med Hypotheses. 2006;66(2):286-93. Epub 2005 Sep 22.

The role of HLA-G in cytokine homeostasis during early pregnancy complicated with maternal infections: a novel etiopathological approach to the neurodevelopmental understanding of schizophrenia.

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  • 1Cellular Immunology Laboratory, Department of Zoology, University of North Bengal, Raja Rammohan PUR, Siliguri-734430, WB, India.


Schizophrenia is perhaps the most enigmatic and tragic psychotic disorder with remarkable mortality and morbidity. Schizophrenia is complex and clinically a heterogeneous disorder. The etiological basis of schizophrenia ranges from autoimmune to neurodevelopmental hypothesis in one hand and involvement of different major gene segment with susceptibility loci on the other. Recently, neurodevelopmental hypothesis gained much impetus over the other domain. To support the neurodevelopmental basis, a number of investigations have shown that maternal infections during pregnancy increases the risk of the offspring developing schizophrenia and other neurodevelopmental disorders. The pathological mechanisms underlying this phenomenon is largely unknown. Many have suggested the involvement of different immune markers and shown that cytokines generated in response to maternal infection alter early brain development through their inflammatory activity. However, these findings have escaped discussion on various important issues related to cytokine homeostasis which depends on a large number of immune parameters including non-classical HLA-G molecules. Infections during early stages of pregnancy may alter cytokine regulation by disturbing the whole uterine immune milieu. To elucidate this issue, authors have tried to correlate the possible relationships between maternal infections and aberration of immune networking at the feto-maternal interface and their subsequent influence on the structural and functional abnormalities of the developing brain. The authors hypothesize that there exists a counter regulatory interaction among proinflammatory cytokines like TNF-alpha, HLA-G molecules and different immune cells like NK cells. We emphasize that HLA-G molecules are the novel immune players which maintain the immune homeostasis during early pregnancy in a manner that it can protect developing fetus from maternal immune attack. However, maternal infections may lead to the disturbance of HLA-G expression which in turn may fail to maintain its otherwise inhibitory potential to down regulate the detrimental inflammatory cytokines. Investigation on such interaction may unravel novel molecular mechanisms of neurodevelopmental basis of schizophrenia. Testing of our proposed hypothesis on animal models and on in vitro derived extravillous trophoblast cell lines holds promise of great insights to usher a new dimension of schizophrenia research and for developing new therapeutic strategies for better treatment and to adopt genetic prediction in schizophrenia management paradigm.

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