Prenatal exposure to environmental insults and enhanced risk of developing Schizophrenia and Autism Spectrum Disorder: focus on biological pathways and epigenetic mechanisms.
Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2018 Jul 4. Epub 2018 Jul 4. PMID: 29981347
When considering neurodevelopmental disorders (NDDs), Schizophrenia (SZ) and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) are considered to be among the most severe in term of prevalence, morbidity and impact on the society. Similar features and overlapping symptoms have been observed at multiple levels, suggesting common pathophysiological bases. Indeed, recent genome-wide association studies (GWAS) and epidemiological data report shared vulnerability genes and environmental triggers across the two disorders. In this review, we will discuss the possible biological mechanisms, including glutamatergic and GABAergic neurotransmissions, inflammatory signals and oxidative stress related systems, which are targeted by adverse environmental exposures and that have been associated with the development of SZ and ASD. We will also discuss the emerging role of the gut microbiome as possible interplay between environment, immune system and brain development. Finally, we will describe the involvement of epigenetic mechanisms in the maintenance of long-lasting effects of adverse environments early in life. This will allow us to better understand the pathophysiology of these NDDs, and also to identify novel targets for future treatment strategies.