Psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia and major depressive disorder were thought to be caused by neurotransmitter abnormalities. Patients with these disorders often experience relapse and remission; however the underlying molecular mechanisms of relapse and remission still remain unclear. Recent advanced immunological analyses have revealed that M1/M2 polarization of macrophages plays an important role in controlling the balance between promotion and suppression in inflammation. Microglial cells share certain characteristics with macrophages and contribute to immune-surveillance in the central nervous system (CNS). In this review, we summarize immunoregulatory functions of microglia and discuss a possible role of microglial M1/M2 polarization in relapse and remission of psychiatric disorders and diseases. M1 polarized microglia can produce pro-inflammatory cytokines, reactive oxygen species, and nitric oxide, suggesting that these molecules contribute to dysfunction of neural network in the CNS. Alternatively, M2 polarized microglia express cytokines and receptors that are implicated in inhibiting inflammation and restoring homeostasis. Based on these aspects, we propose a possibility that M1 and M2 microglia are related to relapse and remission, respectively in psychiatric disorders and diseases. Consequently, a target molecule skewing M2 polarization of microglia may provide beneficial therapies for these disorders and diseases in the CNS.
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