Microglial activation in schizophrenia: Is translocator 18 kDa protein (TSPO) the right marker?

Marjolein A M Sneeboer, Thalia van der Doef, Manja Litjens, N B B Psy, J Melief, Elly M Hol, René S Kahn, Lot D de Witte

Research output: Contribution to journal/periodicalArticleScientificpeer-review


Positron emission tomography (PET) with translocator 18 kDa protein (TSPO) radioligands has frequently been used to investigate microglial activation in schizophrenia in vivo. However, the specificity of this marker is increasingly debated. Here we show that TSPO expression is 1) not increased in postmortem brain tissue of schizophrenia patients; 2) not correlated with expression of microglial activation markers; 3) not restricted to microglia; and 4) not upregulated in ex vivo activated human primary microglia. Our data are in line with recent reports showing that TSPO expression is not increased in schizophrenia and that it is not a specific marker for activated microglia. This study emphasizes the need for further development of tracers to study the role of microglial activation in schizophrenia and other diseases.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)167-172
JournalSchizophrenia Research
Publication statusPublished - 2020

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