The midbrain is an extensively studied brain region in schizophrenia, in view of its reported dopamine pathophysiology and neuroimmune changes associated with this disease. Besides the dopaminergic system, the midbrain contains other cell types that may be involved in schizophrenia pathophysiology. The neurovascular hypothesis of schizophrenia postulates that both the neurovasculature structure and the functioning of the blood-brain barrier (BBB) are compromised in schizophrenia. In the present study, potential alteration in the BBB of patients with schizophrenia was investigated by single-nucleus RNA sequencing of post-mortem midbrain tissue (15 schizophrenia cases and 14 matched controls). We did not identify changes in the relative abundance of the major BBB cell types, nor in the sub-populations, associated with schizophrenia. However, we identified 14 differentially expressed genes in the cells of the BBB in schizophrenia as compared to controls, including genes that have previously been related to schizophrenia, such as FOXP2 and PDE4D. These transcriptional changes were limited to the ependymal cells and pericytes, suggesting that the cells of the BBB are not broadly affected in schizophrenia.
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