Psychosis onset is a transdiagnostic event that leads to a range of psychiatric disorders, which are currently diagnosed through clinical observation. The integration of multimodal biological data could reveal different subtypes of psychosis onset to target for the personalization of care. In this study, we tested the existence of subgroups of patients affected by first-episode psychosis (FEP) with a possible immunopathogenic basis. To do this, we designed a data-driven unsupervised machine learning model to cluster a sample of 127 FEP patients and 117 healthy controls (HC), based on the peripheral blood expression levels of 12 psychosis-related immune gene transcripts. To validate the model, we applied a resampling strategy based on the half-splitting of the total sample with random allocation of the cases. Further, we performed a post-hoc univariate analysis to verify the clinical, cognitive, and structural brain correlates of the subgroups identified. The model identified and validated two distinct clusters: 1) a FEP cluster characterized by the high expression of inflammatory and immune-activating genes (IL1B, CCR7, IL12A and CXCR3); 2) a cluster consisting of an equal number of FEP and HC subjects, which did not show a relative over or under expression of any immune marker (balanced subgroup). None of the subgroups was related to specific symptoms dimensions or longitudinal diagnosis of affective vs non-affective psychosis. FEP patients included in the balanced immune subgroup showed a thinning of the left supramarginal and superiorfrontal cortex (FDR-adjusted p-values < 0.05). Our results demonstrated the existence of a FEP patients' subgroup identified by a multivariate pattern of immunomarkers involved in inflammatory activation. This evidence may pave the way to sample stratification in clinical studies aiming to develop diagnostic tools and therapies targeting specific immunopathogenic pathways of psychosis.
Reference: A machine learning approach on whole blood immunomarkers to identify an inflammation-associated psychosis onset subgroup.
Enrico P, Delvecchio G, Turtulici N, Aronica R, Pigoni A, Squarcina L, Villa FM, Perlini C, Rossetti MG, Bellani M, Lasalvia A, Bonetto C, Scocco P, D'Agostino A, Torresani S, Imbesi M, Bellini F, Veronese A, Bocchio-Chiavetto L, Gennarelli M, Balestrieri M, Colombo GI, Finardi A, Ruggeri M, Furlan R, Brambilla P; GET UP Group. Mol Psychiatry. 2023 Jan 6.