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Schizophr Res. 1996 Mar;19(1):1-17.

Free radical pathology and antioxidant defense in schizophrenia: a review.

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Department of Psychiatry & Health Behavior, Medical College of Georgia, Augusta, 30912, USA.


There is increasing evidence that free radical-mediated CNS neuronal dysfunction is involved in the pathophysiology of schizophrenia. Free radicals (oxyradicals, such as superoxide, hydroxyl ions, and nitric oxide) cause cell injury when they are generated in excess or the antioxidant defense is impaired. Both of these processes seem to be affected in schizophrenia. Evidence of excessive oxyradical generation is premised on the assumption that there is increased catecholamine turnover, though there is little direct evidence to support such a view, which is further accentuated by neuroleptic treatment. However, antioxidant enzymes (superoxide dismutase, SOD; glutathione peroxidase, GSHPx; and catalase, CAT) which are constitutively expressed in all tissues, are found to be altered in erythrocytes of schizophrenic patients. Also, possible oxyradical-mediated injury to CNS is suggested by increased lipid peroxidation products in cerebrospinal fluid and plasma, and reduced membrane polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) in the brain and RBC plasma membranes. The brain is more vulnerable to oxyradical-mediated injury,because its membranes are preferentially enriched in oxyradical sensitive PUFAs, and damaged adult neurons cannot be replaced. In addition to their pathological role, oxyradicals have critical physiological functions in neuronal development, differentiation, and signal transduction, all of which may be altered in some cases of schizophrenia. It may be possible to define cellular injury processes, investigate underlying dynamic regulatory molecular processes, and find ways to prevent these injury processes using peripheral cell models, e.g., red blood cells, lymphocytes and cultured skin fibroblasts. Information on the clinical implications of these processes are valuable for developing new and innovative therapeutic strategies for schizophrenia.

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