Schizophrenia (SZ) is a complex neuropsychiatric disorder, affecting 1% of the world population. Long-standing clinical observations and molecular data have pointed out a possible vascular deficiency that could be acting synergistically with neuronal dysfunction in SZ.
As SZ is a neurodevelopmental disease, the use of human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSC) allows disease biology modeling retaining the patient’s unique genetic signature. Previously, we reported a VEGF-A signaling impairment in SZ-hiPSC derived neural lineages leading to a decreased angiogenesis. Here, we present a functional characterization of SZ-derived brain microvascular endothelial-like cells (BEC), the counterpart of the neurovascular crosstalk, revealing an intrinsically defective Blood-Brain Barrier (BBB) phenotype. Transcriptomic assessment of genes related to endothelial function among three control (Ctrl BEC) and five schizophrenia patients derived BEC (SZP BEC), revealed that SZP BEC have a distinctive expression pattern of angiogenic and BBB-associated genes. Functionally, SZP BEC showed a decreased angiogenic response in vitro and higher transpermeability than Ctrl BEC. Immunofluorescence staining revealed less expression and altered distribution of tight junction proteins in SZP BEC. Moreover, SZP BEC’s secretome reduced barrier capacities in the brain microvascular endothelial cell line HCMEC/D3 and in an in vivo permeability assay in mice. Overall, our results describe an intrinsic failure of SZP BEC for proper barrier function. These findings are consistent with the hypothesis that traces schizophrenia origins to brain development and BBB dysfunction.