Antioxidant defense in schizophrenia and bipolar disorder: A meta-analysis of MRS studies of anterior cingulate glutathione

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Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry



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Background: Glutathione [GSH] is a major intracellular antioxidant that disposes peroxides and protects neurons and glial cells from oxidative stress. In both schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, atypical levels of GSH have been demonstrated, particularly in the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), though no consistent results have emerged due to limitations in sample size. Our objective was to evaluate if GSH levels in the ACC are abnormal in these 2 disorder, when compared to healthy controls. Methods: We reviewed all 1H-MRS studies reporting GSH values for patients satisfying DSM or ICD based criteria for (1) the psychotic disorders - schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder or (2) bipolar disorder in comparison to a healthy controls (HC) group in the Anterior Cingulate Cortex (ACC) published until June 2018. A random-effects model was used to calculate the pooled effect size. A meta-regression analysis of moderator variables was also undertaken. Results: The literature search identified 18 studies with a total sample size of 581 controls, 578 patients with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. There is a small but significant reduction in ACC GSH in patients with schizophrenia compared to HC (N = 13; RFX SMD =0.26; 95% CI [0.07 to 0.44]; p = 0.008; heterogeneity p = 0.11). There is a significant increase in the ACC GSH concentration in bipolar disorder compared to HC (N = 6; RFX SMD = −0.28, 95% CI [−0.09 to −0.47]; p = 0.003; heterogeneity p = 0.95). Conclusions: We report a small, but significant reduction in GSH concentration in the ACC in schizophrenia, and a similar sized increase in bipolar disorder. A notable limitation is the lack of sufficient data to examine the moderating effect of the symptom profile. Schizophrenia and bipolar disorder have notably different patterns of redox abnormalities in the ACC. Reduced ACC GSH may confer a schizophrenia-like clinical phenotype, while an excess favouring a bipolar disorder-like profile.