Maternal complement C1q and increased odds for psychosis in adult offspring

Emily G. Severance, Kristin L. Gressitt, Stephen L. Buka, Tyrone D. Cannon, Robert H. Yolken

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Scopus citations


The presence of maternal antibodies to food and infectious antigens may confer an increased risk of developing schizophrenia and psychosis in adult offspring. Complement factor C1q is an immune molecule with multiple functions including clearance of antigen-antibody complexes from circulation and mediation of synaptic pruning during fetal brain development. To determine if maternal C1q was associated with offspring schizophrenia and psychosis, we evaluated 55 matched case-control maternal serum pairs from the National Collaborative Perinatal Project. Sample pairs were composed of mothers whose offspring developed psychoses as adults and those whose offspring were free from psychiatric disease. Matching criteria for offspring included birth date, delivery hospital, race, and gender, with further matching based on mother's age. IgG markers of C1q, bovine milk casein, egg ovalbumin, and wheat gluten were measured with enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays. C1q levels were compared to food antigen IgG and to previously generated data for C-reactive protein, adenovirus, herpes simplex viruses, influenza viruses, measles virus, and Toxoplasma gondii. C1q was significantly elevated in case mothers with odds ratios of 2.66-6.31 (conditional logistic regressions, p≤0.008-0.05). In case mothers only, C1q was significantly correlated with antibodies to both food and infectious antigens: gluten (R2=0.26, p≤0.004), herpes simplex virus type 2 (R2=0.21, p≤0.02), and adenovirus (R2=0.25, p≤0.006). In conclusion, exposure to maternal C1q activity during pregnancy may be a risk factor for the development of schizophrenia and psychosis in offspring. Prenatal measurement of maternal C1q may be an important and convergent screening tool to identify potentially deleterious immune activation from multiple sources.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)14-19
Number of pages6
JournalSchizophrenia Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Oct 1 2014


  • Inflammation
  • Innate immune activation
  • Maternal exposure
  • Maternal-fetal interface
  • Synapses

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry


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