Autism and Neuroinflammation


Autism and Neuroinflammation

Ahlsen, G., L. Rosengren, et al. (1993). "Glial fibrillary acidic protein in the cerebrospinal fluid of children with autism and other neuropsychiatric disorders." Biol Psychiatry 33(10): 734-43.

The cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) of 47 children and adolescents with autism was analyzed for the contents of two astroglial proteins, the glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFA) and S 100. The results were contrasted with those obtained in similarly aged cases with other neuropsychiatric disorders (n = 25) and in normal children (n = 10). S-100 did not discriminate the groups from each other. However, GFA in autism and autistic-like conditions was at a level almost three times that in the normal group. The results could implicate gliosis and unspecific brain damage in autism. An alternative model would be increased synapse turnover regardless of underlying cause.

Bradstreet, J. J., S. Smith, et al. (2007). "Spironolactone might be a desirable immunologic and hormonal intervention in autism spectrum disorders." Med Hypotheses 68(5): 979-87.

Multiple studies now demonstrate that autism is medically characterized, in part, by immune system dysregulation, including evidence of neuroglial activation and gastrointestinal inflammation. This neuroglial process has further been characterized as neuroinflammation. In addition, a subset of autistic children exhibit higher than average levels of androgens. Spironolactone is an aldosterone antagonist and potassium-sparing diuretic with a desirable safety profile. It possesses potent anti-inflammatory and immune modifying properties that might make it an excellent medical intervention for autism spectrum disorders. Furthermore, spironolactone demonstrates substantial anti-androgen properties that might further enhance its appeal in autism, particularly in a definable subset of hyperandrogenic autistic children. One case report is briefly reviewed demonstrating objective clinical improvements in an autistic child after spironolactone administration. Additional research in controlled trials is now needed to further define the risks and benefits of spironolactone use in children with autism.

Braunschweig, D., P. Ashwood, et al. (2007). "Autism: Maternally derived antibodies specific for fetal brain proteins." Neurotoxicology.

Autism is a profound disorder of neurodevelopment with poorly understood biological origins. A potential role for maternal autoantibodies in the etiology of some cases of autism has been proposed in previous studies. To investigate this hypothesis, maternal plasma antibodies against human fetal and adult brain proteins were analyzed by western blot in 61 mothers of children with autistic disorder and 102 controls matched for maternal age and birth year (62 mothers of typically developing children (TD) and 40 mothers of children with non-ASD developmental delays (DD)). We observed reactivity to two protein bands at approximately 73 and 37kDa in plasma from 7 of 61 (11.5%) mothers of children with autism (AU) against fetal but not adult brain, which was not noted in either control group (TD; 0/62 p=0.0061 and DD; 0/40 p=0.0401). Further, the presence of reactivity to these two bands was associated with parent report of behavioral regression in AU children when compared to the TD (p=0.0019) and DD (0.0089) groups. Individual reactivity to the 37kDa band was observed significantly more often in the AU population compared with TD (p=0.0086) and DD (p=0.002) mothers, yielding a 5.69-fold odds ratio (95% confidence interval 2.09-15.51) associated with this band. The presence of these antibodies in the plasma of some mothers of children with autism, as well as the differential findings between mothers of children with early onset and regressive autism may suggest an association between the transfer of IgG autoantibodies during early neurodevelopment and the risk of developing of autism in some children.

Join the Autism Rescue Angels
Donate to cure Autism
GR Autism brochure

Let's go Shopping for Autism Recovery


Chez, M. G., T. Dowling, et al. (2007). "Elevation of tumor necrosis factor-alpha in cerebrospinal fluid of autistic children." Pediatr Neurol 36(6): 361-5.

Recent reports implicating elevated cytokines in the central nervous system in a small number of patients studied with autism have reported clinical regression. These studies have not focused on tumor necrosis factor-alpha as a possible marker for inflammatory damage. A series of 10 children with autism had clinical evaluation of their serum and spinal fluid for inflammatory changes and possible metabolic disease as part of their neurological evaluation. Elevation of cerebrospinal fluid levels of tumor necrosis factor-alpha was significantly higher (mean = 104.10 pg/mL) than concurrent serum levels (mean = 2.78 pg/mL) in all of the patients studied. The ratio of the cerebrospinal fluid levels to serum levels averaged 53.7:1. This ratio is significantly higher than the elevations reported for other pathological states for which cerebrospinal fluid and serum tumor necrosis factor-alpha levels have been simultaneously measured. This observation may offer a unique insight into central nervous system inflammatory mechanisms that may contribute to the onset of autism and may serve as a potential clinical marker. More controlled study of this potentially important observation may prove valuable.

Connolly, A. M., M. Chez, et al. (2006). "Brain-derived neurotrophic factor and autoantibodies to neural antigens in sera of children with autistic spectrum disorders, Landau-Kleffner syndrome, and epilepsy." Biol Psychiatry 59(4): 354-63.

BACKGROUND: Brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) elevation in newborn sera predicts intellectual/social developmental abnormalities. Other autoantibodies (AAs) to endothelial cells (ECs) and myelin basic protein (MBP) are also elevated in some children. We tested relationships between BDNF, BDNF AAs, and other AAs in children with these disorders. METHODS: BDNF levels and IgG/IgM autoantibodies to BDNF, ECs, MBP, and histones were measured in children with autism, childhood disintegrative disorder (CDD), pervasive developmental delay-not otherwise specified (PDD-nos), acquired epilepsy, Landau-Kleffner syndrome (LKS); healthy children (HC), and children with non-neurological illnesses (NNI). RESULTS: Mean BDNF levels were elevated in children with autism and CDD, (p < or = 0.0002) compared to HC or NNI. Mean IgG and IgM BDNF AAs were elevated in children with autism, CDD and epilepsy (p < or = 0.0005) compared to HC but not to NNI. Mean IgM AA EC titers detected by immunocytochemistry were higher in autism, PDD-NOS, epilepsy, and LKS (p < or = 0.005) compared to HC and NNI. While mean ELISA IgG EC AAs were higher in autism and PPD-NOS (p < 0.005) compared to HC but not NNI, ELISA IgM EC AAs were higher in children with autism, CDD, PDD-NOS, and epilepsy compared to both HC and NNI (p < 0.0005). Mean anti-MBP IgG and IgM titers were higher in all study groups (p < 0.005) except for LKS compared to both HC and NNI. CONCLUSION: Children with developmental disorders and epilepsy have higher AAs to several neural antigens compared to controls. The presence of both BDNF AAs and elevated BDNF levels in some children with autism and CDD suggests a previously unrecognized interaction between the immune system and BDNF.

Connolly, A. M., M. G. Chez, et al. (1999). "Serum autoantibodies to brain in Landau-Kleffner variant, autism, and other neurologic disorders." J Pediatr 134(5): 607-13.

OBJECTIVE: Etiologically unexplained disorders of language and social development have often been reported to improve in patients treated with immune-modulating regimens. Here we determined the frequency of autoantibodies to brain among such children. DESIGN: We collected sera from a cohort of children with (1) pure Landau-Kleffner syndrome (n = 2), (2) Landau-Kleffner syndrome variant (LKSV, n = 11), and (3) autistic spectrum disorder (ASD, n = 11). None had received immune-modulating treatment before the serum sample was obtained. Control sera (n = 71) were from 29 healthy children, 22 with non-neurologic illnesses (NNIs), and 20 children with other neurologic disorders (ONDs). We identified brain autoantibodies by immunostaining of human temporal cortex and antinuclear autoantibodies using commercially available kits. RESULTS: IgG anti-brain autoantibodies were present in 45% of sera from children with LKSV, 27% with ASD, and 10% with ONDs compared with 2% from healthy children and control children with NNIs. IgM autoantibodies were present in 36% of sera from children with ASD, 9% with LKSV, and 15% with ONDs compared with 0% of control sera. Labeling studies identified one antigenic target to be endothelial cells. Antinuclear antibodies with titers >/=1:80 were more common in children with ASD and control children with ONDs. CONCLUSION: Children with LKSV and ASD have a greater frequency of serum antibodies to brain endothelial cells and to nuclei than children with NNIs or healthy children. The presence of these antibodies raises the possibility that autoimmunity plays a role in the pathogenesis of language and social developmental abnormalities in a subset of children with these disorders.

Cook, E. H., Jr., B. D. Perry, et al. (1993). "Receptor inhibition by immunoglobulins: specific inhibition by autistic children, their relatives, and control subjects." J Autism Dev Disord 23(1): 67-78.

Forty-two parents of children with autistic disorder, 15 children with autistic disorder, 17 siblings of children with autistic disorder, and 12 unrelated normal adult controls were studied to determine if immunoglobulins isolated from their plasma would inhibit binding of the 5HT1A agonist, [3H]-8-hydroxy-N,N-dipropyl-2-aminotetralin (DPAT) to 5HT1A receptors in human hippocampal membranes. There were no significant differences among the means of percentage inhibition of DPAT binding of parents, children with autistic disorder, siblings, or unrelated controls. In addition, there were no differences in the proportion of subjects with > 15% DPAT inhibition among autistic children, their parents, their siblings, or unrelated controls. Immunoglobulin inhibition was not specific for the 5HT1A receptor binding site, since immunoglobulins inhibited binding to 5HT2, D1, D2, and alpha 2-adrenergic binding sites. The immunoglobulins isolated from normal controls inhibited [3H]-rauwolscine binding at alpha 2-adrenergic sites less than immunoglobulins of children with autistic disorder and their parents and siblings. This study did not support the hypothesis that autoantibodies to 5HT1A or 5HT2 receptors are characteristic of autistic disorder.

Cooper, E. L. (2003). "Neuroimmunology of autism: a multifaceted hypothesis." Int J Immunopathol Pharmacol 16(3): 289-92.

Cortesi, M., E. Alfei, et al. (2007). "Linking autism, regression and Landau-Kleffner syndrome: integrative role of nerve growth factor." Med Hypotheses 68(5): 1178-9.

Dalton, P., R. Deacon, et al. (2003). "Maternal neuronal antibodies associated with autism and a language disorder." Ann Neurol 53(4): 533-7.

Neurodevelopmental disorders could be caused by maternal antibodies or other serum factors. We detected serum antibodies binding to rodent Purkinje cells and other neurons in a mother of three children: the first normal, the second with autism, and the third with a severe specific language disorder. We injected the serum (0.5-1.0 ml/day) into pregnant mice during gestation and found altered exploration and motor coordination and changes in cerebellar magnetic resonance spectroscopy in the mouse offspring, comparing with offspring of mice injected with sera from mothers of healthy children. This evidence supports a role for maternal antibodies in some forms of neurodevelopmental disorder.

Kern, J. K. (2003). "Purkinje cell vulnerability and autism: a possible etiological connection." Brain Dev 25(6): 377-82.

Autism is a neurological disorder of unknown etiology. The onset of the abnormal growth and development within the brain is also not known. Current thought by experts in autism is that the time of onset is prenatal, occurring prior to 30 weeks gestation. However, autism comprises a heterogeneous population in that parents report either that their child was abnormal from birth, or that their child was developmentally normal until sometime after birth, at which time the child began to regress or deteriorate. Anecdotal reports suggest that some children with autism have significant illness or clinical events prior to the development of autistic symptoms. Conceivably, these children may become autistic from neuronal cell death or brain damage sometime after birth as result of insult. To support this theory is that marked Purkinje cell loss, the most consistent finding in the autistic disorder, can result from insult. Evidence suggests that the Purkinje cell is selectively vulnerable. This article discusses a theory that the selective vulnerability of the Purkinje cell may play a role in the etiology of autism, and suggests that a future direction in autism research may be to investigate the possibility of neuronal cell loss from insult as a cause of autism. Results of a small pilot survey are also discussed.

Kirkman, N. J., J. E. Libbey, et al. (2008). "How Relevant are GFAP Autoantibodies in Autism and Tourette Syndrome?" J Autism Dev Disord 38(2): 333-41.

Controversy exists over the role of autoantibodies to central nervous system antigens in autism and Tourette Syndrome. We investigated plasma autoantibody titers to glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) in children with classic onset (33) and regressive onset (26) autism, controls (25, healthy age- and gender-matched) and individuals with Tourette Syndrome (24) by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays. We found a significant difference in autoantibody titers to GFAP, not accounted for by age, between the Tourette (significantly lower) and regressive autism groups. However, no differences were found between: classic/regressive; classic/controls; classic/Tourette; regressive/controls; or controls/Tourette. Autoantibody responses against GFAP are unlikely to play a pathogenic role in autism or Tourette Syndrome.

Kozlovskaia, G. V., T. P. Kliushnik, et al. (2000). "[Nerve growth factor auto-antibodies in children with various forms of mental dysontogenesis and in schizophrenia high risk group]."

Zh Nevrol Psikhiatr Im S S Korsakova 100(3): 50-2.

The level of autoantibodies (AAb) to nerve growth factor was evaluated in blood serum of 163 children with different forms of mental dysontogenesis of endogenic, residual-organic, psychogenic and deprivative origin. Significant elevation of the level of AAb was found in all forms of psychic dysontogenesis. The most significant elevation of the level of AAb (p < 0.01), as compared with the controls (45 children), was characteristic for endogenic forms of dysontogenesis (schizophrenia, early children's autism, schizotypic diathesis). The level of AAb was also found as an indicator of the acuteness of the pathologic state. Besides, its elevation was observed 1-2 weeks prior to the onset of the clinical exacerbation. Elevation of AAb level was also found in psychic dysontogenesis of residual-organic nature (children with perinatal encephalopathy), but it was not so significant as compared with the controls (p < 0.05%). The analysis in the age dynamics of children from this group revealed, that AAb level may serve as some prognostic index of the severity of psychic dysontogenesis. The level of AAb differs some states in schizotypic diathesis and deprivative dysontogenesis, which are clinically quite similar. The method for the estimation of serum AAb level may be proposed as screening in prophylactic medical examination of children from the first year of life under conditions of pediatric outpatient service for identification of risk-groups by psychic dysontogenesis to perform early special psychoprophylaxis.

Libbey, J. E., H. H. Coon, et al. (2008). "Are There Enhanced MBP Autoantibodies in Autism?" J Autism Dev Disord 38(2): 324-32.

Autoantibodies to central nervous system antigens, such as myelin basic protein (MBP), may play a role in autism. We measured autoantibody titers to MBP in children with autism, both classic onset and regressive onset forms, controls (healthy age- and gender-matched) and individuals with Tourette syndrome via enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays. We found a significant difference in autoantibody titers to MBP, not accounted for by age or medication, between Tourette and classic autism (both significantly lower) when compared to regressive autism, but not when compared to controls. Autoantibody responses against MBP are unlikely to play a pathogenic role in autism.

MacFabe, D. F., D. P. Cain, et al. (2007). "Neurobiological effects of intraventricular propionic acid in rats: possible role of short chain fatty acids on the pathogenesis and characteristics of autism spectrum disorders." Behav Brain Res 176(1): 149-69.

Clinical observations suggest that certain gut and dietary factors may transiently worsen symptoms in autism spectrum disorders (ASD), epilepsy and some inheritable metabolic disorders. Propionic acid (PPA) is a short chain fatty acid and an important intermediate of cellular metabolism. PPA is also a by-product of a subpopulation of human gut enterobacteria and is a common food preservative. We examined the behavioural, electrophysiological, neuropathological, and biochemical effects of treatment with PPA and related compounds in adult rats. Intraventricular infusions of PPA produced reversible repetitive dystonic behaviours, hyperactivity, turning behaviour, retropulsion, caudate spiking, and the progressive development of limbic kindled seizures, suggesting that this compound has central effects. Biochemical analyses of brain homogenates from PPA treated rats showed an increase in oxidative stress markers (e.g., lipid peroxidation and protein carbonylation) and glutathione S-transferase activity coupled with a decrease in glutathione and glutathione peroxidase activity. Neurohistological examinations of hippocampus and adjacent white matter (external capsule) of PPA treated rats revealed increased reactive astrogliosis (GFAP immunoreactivity) and activated microglia (CD68 immunoreactivity) suggestive of a neuroinflammatory process. This was coupled with a lack of cytotoxicity (cell counts, cleaved caspase 3' immunoreactivity), and an increase in phosphorylated CREB immunoreactivity. We propose that some types of autism may be partial forms of genetically inherited or acquired disorders involving altered PPA metabolism. Thus, intraventricular administration of PPA in rats may provide a means to model some aspects of human ASD in rats.

MacFabe, D. F., K. Rodríguez-Capote, et al. (2008). "A novel rodent model of autism: intraventricular infusions of propionic acid increase locomotor activity and induce neuroinflammation and oxidative stress in discrete regions of adult rat brain " American Journal of Biochemistry and Biotechnology 4(2): 146-166.

Innate neuroinflammatory changes, increased oxidative stress and disorders of glutathione metabolism may be involved in the pathophysiology of autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Propionic acid (PPA) is a dietary and gut bacterial short chain fatty acid which can produce brain and behavioral changes reminiscent of ASD following intraventricular infusion in rats. Adult Long-Evans rats were given intraventricular infusions of either PPA (500ug uL1, 4µl animal1) or phosphate buffered saline (PBS) vehicle, twice daily for 7 days. Immediately following the second daily infusion, the locomotor activity of each rat was assessed in an automated open field (Versamax) for 30 min. PPA-treated rats showed significant increases in locomotor activity compared to PBS vehicle controls. Following the last treatment day, specific brain regions were assessed for neuroinflammatory or oxidative stress markers. Immunohistochemical analyses revealed reactive astrogliosis (GFAP), activated microglia (CD68, Iba1) without apoptotic cell loss (Caspase 3 and NeuN) in hippocampus and white matter (external capsule) of PPA treated rats. Biomarkers of protein and lipid peroxidation, total glutathione (GSH) as well as the activity of the antioxidant enzymes superoxide dismutase (SOD), catalase, glutathione peroxidase (GPx), glutathione reductase (GR) and glutathione S-transferase (GST) were examined in brain homogenates. Some brain regions of PPA treated animals (neocortex, hippocampus, thalamus, striatum) showed increased lipid and protein oxidation accompanied by decreased total GSH in neocortex. Catalase activity was decreased in most brain regions of PPA treated animals suggestive of reduced antioxidant enzymatic activity. GPx and GR activity was relatively unaffected by PPA treatment while GST was increased perhaps indicating involvement of GSH in the removal of PPA or related catabolites. Impairments in GSH and catalase levels may render CNS cells more susceptible to oxidative stress from a variety of toxic insults. Overall, these findings are consistent with those found in ASD patients and further support intraventricular PPA administration as an animal model of ASD.

Martinez Bermejo, A., I. Pascual Castroviejo, et al. (1989). "[Acquired aphasia syndrome with epilepsy (Landau-Kleffner syndrome) secondary to cerebral arteritis. 4 cases]." Neurologia 4(8): 296-9.

We report four cases of acquired aphasia with epilepsy syndrome or Landau-Kleffner syndrome in three boys and one girl who were previously in good health. Along with the clinical picture, we describe cerebral arteriographic findings, which consisted of obstructive arteriopathy of small and medium size vessels in delimited areas. A specific cause of the arteriopathy was not found in any case. We discuss the treatment (corticosteroids and calcium antagonists) and the course of the patients. In front of the possibility of being isolated cases, we discuss the interest of performing cerebral angiographic studies in patients with Landau-Kleffner syndrome in initial stage in order to confirm the consistence of these findings and the adequate treatment.

Mazur-Kolecka, B., I. L. Cohen, et al. (2007). "Altered development of neuronal progenitor cells after stimulation with autistic blood sera." Brain Res 1168: 11-20.

Changes of brain structure and functions in people with autism may result from altered neuronal development, however, no adequate cellular or animal models are available to study neurogenesis in autism. Neuronal development can be modeled in culture of neuronal progenitor cells (NPCs) stimulated with serum to differentiate into neurons. Because sera from people with autism and age-matched controls contain different levels of numerous biologically active factors, we hypothesized that development of human NPCs induced to differentiate into neurons with sera from children with autism reflects the altered early neuronal development that leads to autism. The control and autistic sera were collected from siblings aged below 6 years that lived in the same environment. The effect of sera on differentiation of NPC neurospheres into neuronal colonies was tested in 72-h-long cultures by morphometry, immunocytochemistry and immunoblotting. We found that sera from children with autism significantly reduced NPCs' proliferation, but stimulated cell migration, development of small neurons with processes, length of processes and synaptogenesis. These results suggest that development of network of processes and synaptogenesis--the specific events in the brain during postnatal ontogenesis--are altered in autism. Further studies in this cell culture model may explain some of the cellular alterations described in autistic patients.

Ni, L., G. Acevedo, et al. (2007). "Toll-like receptor ligands and CD154 stimulate microglia to produce a factor(s) that promotes excess cholinergic differentiation in the developing rat basal forebrain: implications for neurodevelopmental disorders." Pediatr Res 61(1): 15-20.

Maternal inflammation plays a role in the etiology of certain neurodevelopmental disorders including autism and schizophrenia. Because maternal inflammation can lead to activation of fetal microglia, we have examined effects of inflamed microglia on cultured neural progenitors from rat embryonic septal region and basal forebrain. These cells give rise to cholinergic neurons projecting to cortex and hippocampus. Microglia stimulated with lipopolysaccharide (LPS), peptidoglycan, Poly I:C and CD154 produce conditioned media (CM) that promotes excessive numbers of cholinergic neurons and levels of choline acetyltransferase (ChAT) activity 6-8 times that of untreated cultures. Expression of the neural-specific transcription factor MATH1 increases substantially within 1 h of plating in LPS-CM. Untreated cultures do not attain equivalent levels until 6 h. By contrast, expression of glial-related transcription factors in LPS-CM-treated cultures never attains the elevated levels of untreated cultures. LPS-CM-treated clones derived from individual progenitors labeled with a LacZ-expressing retrovirus showed >2.5-fold increase in the percentage of cholinergic cells compared with untreated clones. Thus, CM from activated microglia prompts excess cholinergic differentiation from undifferentiated progenitors suggesting that microglial inflammation during critical stages can lead to aberrant brain development.

Pardo, C. A., D. L. Vargas, et al. (2005). "Immunity, neuroglia and neuroinflammation in autism." Int Rev Psychiatry 17(6): 485-95.

Autism is a complex neurodevelopmental disorder of early onset that is highly variable in its clinical presentation. Although the causes of autism in most patients remain unknown, several lines of research support the view that both genetic and environmental factors influence the development of abnormal cortical circuitry that underlies autistic cognitive processes and behaviors. The role of the immune system in the development of autism is controversial. Several studies showing peripheral immune abnormalities support immune hypotheses, however until recently there have been no immune findings in the CNS. We recently demonstrated the presence of neuroglial and innate neuroimmune system activation in brain tissue and cerebrospinal fluid of patients with autism, findings that support the view that neuroimmune abnormalities occur in the brain of autistic patients and may contribute to the diversity of the autistic phenotypes. The role of neuroglial activation and neuroinflammation are still uncertain but could be critical in maintaining, if not also in initiating, some of the CNS abnormalities present in autism. A better understanding of the role of neuroinflammation in the pathogenesis of autism may have important clinical and therapeutic implications.

Pascual-Castroviejo, I., V. Lopez Martin, et al. (1992). "Is cerebral arteritis the cause of the Landau-Kleffner syndrome? Four cases in childhood with angiographic study." Can J Neurol Sci 19(1): 46-52.

Four children with Landau-Kleffner syndrome were studied over a six year period. They presented with acquired aphasia, epilepsy, and focal or generalized EEG discharges which were exacerbated during sleep. In addition, cerebral angiography demonstrated isolated arteritis of some branches of the carotid arteries in all cases. Computed tomographic and magnetic resonance images were normal. Nicardipine in a dose of 1 to 2 mg/kg/day, added to conventional anticonvulsant drugs provided effective supplementary control of seizures, of paroxysmal EEG discharges, and of language and behavioural disturbances, even several years after the onset of the disorder and in patients whose response to other medications, including steroids, had been poor. Interruption of nicardipine administration was followed by relapse of the language disorder. Repeat angiography was performed in all four patients and showed recanalization of obstructed vessels in two cases. Focal cerebral vasculitis may be the pathogenesis of the Landau-Kleffner syndrome and calcium channel blockers such as nicardipine may be effective and specific therapy.

Pascual-Castroviejo, I. and S. I. Pascual Pascual (2000). "[Cerebral arteritis and psychic involution in children. A report of one case with a good response to treatment]." Rev Neurol 31(4): 311-3.

OBJECTIVE: To show the importance of the cerebral arteritis as etiology of the language and the intellectual involution in children. CLINICAL CASE: A boy started to show psychic and language involution since 18 months of life to arrive to an autistic behavior. After showing normal results in all the studies performed in order to investigate the possible etiologies, cerebral arteriography was performed. Cerebral arteritis affecting especially the right opercular artery was disclosed. Oral nicardipine administration was follow-up of a complete recuperation. CONCLUSIONS: Cerebral arteritis is very seldom managed as the cause of intellectual and/or language involution in children as it also occurs with the syndrome of acquired aphasia. However, this pathology has a good response not only to corticoids but also to calcium channel antagonists as it occurred in our patient.

Purcell, A. E., O. H. Jeon, et al. (2001). "Postmortem brain abnormalities of the glutamate neurotransmitter system in autism." Neurology 57(9): 1618-28.

BACKGROUND: Studies examining the brains of individuals with autism have identified anatomic and pathologic changes in regions such as the cerebellum and hippocampus. Little, if anything, is known, however, about the molecules that are involved in the pathogenesis of this disorder. OBJECTIVE: To identify genes with abnormal expression levels in the cerebella of subjects with autism. METHOD: Brain samples from a total of 10 individuals with autism and 23 matched controls were collected, mainly from the cerebellum. Two cDNA microarray technologies were used to identify genes that were significantly up- or downregulated in autism. The abnormal mRNA or protein levels of several genes identified by microarray analysis were investigated using PCR with reverse transcription and Western blotting. alpha-Amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazoleproprionic acid (AMPA)- and NMDA-type glutamate receptor densities were examined with receptor autoradiography in the cerebellum, caudate-putamen, and prefrontal cortex. RESULTS: The mRNA levels of several genes were significantly increased in autism, including excitatory amino acid transporter 1 and glutamate receptor AMPA 1, two members of the glutamate system. Abnormalities in the protein or mRNA levels of several additional molecules in the glutamate system were identified on further analysis, including glutamate receptor binding proteins. AMPA-type glutamate receptor density was decreased in the cerebellum of individuals with autism (p < 0.05). CONCLUSIONS: Subjects with autism may have specific abnormalities in the AMPA-type glutamate receptors and glutamate transporters in the cerebellum. These abnormalities may be directly involved in the pathogenesis of the disorder.

Silva, S. C., C. Correia, et al. (2004). "Autoantibody repertoires to brain tissue in autism nuclear families." J Neuroimmunol 152(1-2): 176-82.

The hypothesis of an immune dysfunction in autism spectrum disorders has previously been put forward without, however, compelling evidence of a direct relation to its etiology or pathogenesis. To further understand if autoimmunity could play a significant role in autism, we analyzed autoantibody repertoires to brain tissue extract in the plasma of 171 autism children, their parents, and 54 controls, by quantitative immunoblotting. Multiparametric analysis revealed significant differences between patients and controls, and showed that one single reactivity in Section 32 of the blot had the most power to discriminate between these samples. Family correlation coefficients and heritability estimates did not provide any evidence that this reactivity was genetically determined. While the molecular weight of the target protein suggested that it might be an isoform of Myelin Basic Protein (MBP), inhibition assays with human MBP argued against this hypothesis. The study evidences the widespread occurrence of autoreactivities to brain tissue in autism patients, which may represent the immune system's neuroprotective response to a previous brain injury occurred during neurodevelopment. The molecular identification of the target protein in Section 32 will contribute to the understanding of the role of immune responses against brain antigens in autistic patients.

Singer, H. S., C. M. Morris, et al. (2007). "Antibodies against fetal brain in sera of mothers with autistic children." J Neuroimmunol.

Serum antibodies in 100 mothers of children with autistic disorder (MCAD) were compared to 100 age-matched mothers with unaffected children (MUC) using as antigenic substrates human and rodent fetal and adult brain tissues, GFAP, and MBP. MCAD had significantly more individuals with Western immunoblot bands at 36 kDa in human fetal and rodent embryonic brain tissue. The density of bands was greater in fetal brain at 61 kDa. MCAD plus developmental regression had greater reactivity against human fetal brain at 36 and 39 kDa. Data support a possible complex association between genetic/metabolic/environmental factors and the placental transfer of maternal antibodies in autism.

Singer, H. S., C. M. Morris, et al. (2006). "Antibrain antibodies in children with autism and their unaffected siblings." J Neuroimmunol 178(1-2): 149-55.

Serum autoantibodies to human brain, identified by ELISA and Western immunoblotting, were evaluated in 29 children with autism spectrum disorder (22 with autistic disorder), 9 non-autistic siblings and 13 controls. More autistic subjects than controls had bands at 100 kDa in caudate, putamen and prefrontal cortex (p<0.01) as well as larger peak heights of bands at 73 kDa in the cerebellum and cingulate gyrus. Both autistic disorder subjects and their matched non-autistic siblings had denser bands (peak height and/or area under the curve) at 73 kDa in the cerebellum and cingulate gyrus than did controls (p<0.01). Results suggest that children with autistic disorder and their siblings exhibit differences compared to controls in autoimmune reactivity to specific epitopes located in distinct brain regions.

Singh, V. K., S. X. Lin, et al. (2002). "Abnormal measles-mumps-rubella antibodies and CNS autoimmunity in children with autism." J Biomed Sci 9(4): 359-64.

Autoimmunity to the central nervous system (CNS), especially to myelin basic protein (MBP), may play a causal role in autism, a neurodevelopmental disorder. Because many autistic children harbor elevated levels of measles antibodies, we conducted a serological study of measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) and MBP autoantibodies. Using serum samples of 125 autistic children and 92 control children, antibodies were assayed by ELISA or immunoblotting methods. ELISA analysis showed a significant increase in the level of MMR antibodies in autistic children. Immunoblotting analysis revealed the presence of an unusual MMR antibody in 75 of 125 (60%) autistic sera but not in control sera. This antibody specifically detected a protein of 73-75 kD of MMR. This protein band, as analyzed with monoclonal antibodies, was immunopositive for measles hemagglutinin (HA) protein but not for measles nucleoprotein and rubella or mumps viral proteins. Thus the MMR antibody in autistic sera detected measles HA protein, which is unique to the measles subunit of the vaccine. Furthermore, over 90% of MMR antibody-positive autistic sera were also positive for MBP autoantibodies, suggesting a strong association between MMR and CNS autoimmunity in autism. Stemming from this evidence, we suggest that an inappropriate antibody response to MMR, specifically the measles component thereof, might be related to pathogenesis of autism.

Singh, V. K., S. X. Lin, et al. (1998). "Serological association of measles virus and human herpesvirus-6 with brain autoantibodies in autism." Clin Immunol Immunopathol 89(1): 105-8.

Considering an autoimmunity and autism connection, brain autoantibodies to myelin basic protein (anti-MBP) and neuron-axon filament protein (anti-NAFP) have been found in autistic children. In this current study, we examined associations between virus serology and autoantibody by simultaneous analysis of measles virus antibody (measles-IgG), human herpesvirus-6 antibody (HHV-6-IgG), anti-MBP, and anti-NAFP. We found that measles-IgG and HHV-6-IgG titers were moderately higher in autistic children but they did not significantly differ from normal controls. Moreover, we found that a vast majority of virus serology-positive autistic sera was also positive for brain autoantibody: (i) 90% of measles-IgG-positive autistic sera was also positive for anti-MBP; (ii) 73% of measles-IgG-positive autistic sera was also positive for anti-NAFP; (iii) 84% of HHV-6-IgG-positive autistic sera was also positive for anti-MBP; and (iv) 72% of HHV-6-IgG-positive autistic sera was also positive for anti-NAFP. This study is the first to report an association between virus serology and brain autoantibody in autism; it supports the hypothesis that a virus-induced autoimmune response may play a causal role in autism.

Singh, V. K. and W. H. Rivas (2004). "Prevalence of serum antibodies to caudate nucleus in autistic children." Neurosci Lett 355(1-2): 53-6.

Autism may involve autoimmunity to brain. We studied regional distribution of antibodies to rat caudate nucleus, cerebral cortex, cerebellum, brain stem and hippocampus. The study included 30 normal and 68 autistic children. Antibodies were assayed by immunoblotting. Autistic children, but not normal children, had antibodies to caudate nucleus (49% positive sera), cerebral cortex (18% positive sera) and cerebellum (9% positive sera). Brain stem and hippocampus were negative. Antibodies to caudate nucleus were directed towards three proteins having 160, 115 and 49 kD molecular weights. Since a significant number of autistic children had antibodies to caudate nucleus, we propose that an autoimmune reaction to this brain region may cause neurological impairments in autistic children. Thus, the caudate nucleus might be involved in the neurobiology of autism.

Singh, V. K., R. Warren, et al. (1997). "Circulating autoantibodies to neuronal and glial filament proteins in autism." Pediatr Neurol 17(1): 88-90.

Autoimmunity may be a pathogenic factor in autism, a behavioral disorder of early childhood onset. Circulating autoantibodies are produced in organ-specific autoimmunity; therefore, we investigated them in the plasma of autistic subjects, mentally retarded (MR) subjects, and healthy controls. Autoantibodies (IgG isotype) to neuron-axon filament protein (anti-NAFP) and glial fibrillary acidic protein (anti-GFAP) were analyzed by the Western immunoblotting technique. We found a significant increase in incidence of anti-NAFP (P = .004) and anti-GFAP (P = .002) in autistic subjects, but not in MR subjects. Clinically, these autoantibodies may be related to autoimmune pathology in autism.

Singh, V. K., R. P. Warren, et al. (1993). "Antibodies to myelin basic protein in children with autistic behavior." Brain Behav Immun 7(1): 97-103.

Based on a possible pathological relationship of autoimmunity to autism, antibodies reactive with myelin basic protein (anti-MBP) were investigated in the sera of autistic children. Using a screening serum dilution of 1:400 in the protein-immunoblotting technique, approximately 58% (19 of 33) sera of autistic children (< or = 10 years of age) were found to be positive for anti-MBP. This result in autistics was significantly (p < or = .0001) different from the controls (8 of 88 or only 9% positive), which included age-matched children with normal health, idiopathic mental retardation (MR) and Down syndrome (DS), and normal adults of 20 to 40 years of age. Since autism is a syndrome of unknown etiology, it is possible that anti-MBP antibodies are associated with the development of autistic behavior.

Todd, R. D. and R. D. Ciaranello (1985). "Demonstration of inter- and intraspecies differences in serotonin binding sites by antibodies from an autistic child." Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 82(2): 612-6.

Serotonin (5-HT) binding sites from bovine and rat cerebral cortex membranes share pharmacological properties that allow both to be subclassified by the same criteria. We show here that [3H]5-HT binding sites from human cortex also possess pharmacological properties that follow the same subclassification scheme as for bovine and rat cortex. In addition, we show that solubilized 5-HT1 and 5-HT3 sites from all three species have an s20,w value of 3.4. Despite these similar pharmacological and physical characteristics, we can demonstrate antigenic differences between receptor types and species. Human 5-HT1A sites can be distinguished from human 5-HT1B, 5-HT2, and 5-HT3 sites and from equivalent sites in rat and bovine cortex. The anti-human 5-HT1A antibodies were discovered in the blood of an autistic child and may have clinical or etiologic significance for this disorder.

Todd, R. D., J. M. Hickok, et al. (1988). "Antibrain antibodies in infantile autism." Biol Psychiatry 23(6): 644-7.

Vargas, D. L., C. Nascimbene, et al. (2005). "Neuroglial activation and neuroinflammation in the brain of patients with autism." Ann Neurol 57(1): 67-81.

Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by impaired communication and social interaction and may be accompanied by mental retardation and epilepsy. Its cause remains unknown, despite evidence that genetic, environmental, and immunological factors may play a role in its pathogenesis. To investigate whether immune-mediated mechanisms are involved in the pathogenesis of autism, we used immunocytochemistry, cytokine protein arrays, and enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays to study brain tissues and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) from autistic patients and determined the magnitude of neuroglial and inflammatory reactions and their cytokine expression profiles. Brain tissues from cerebellum, midfrontal, and cingulate gyrus obtained at autopsy from 11 patients with autism were used for morphological studies. Fresh-frozen tissues available from seven patients and CSF from six living autistic patients were used for cytokine protein profiling. We demonstrate an active neuroinflammatory process in the cerebral cortex, white matter, and notably in cerebellum of autistic patients. Immunocytochemical studies showed marked activation of microglia and astroglia, and cytokine profiling indicated that macrophage chemoattractant protein (MCP)-1 and tumor growth factor-beta1, derived from neuroglia, were the most prevalent cytokines in brain tissues. CSF showed a unique proinflammatory profile of cytokines, including a marked increase in MCP-1. Our findings indicate that innate neuroimmune reactions play a pathogenic role in an undefined proportion of autistic patients, suggesting that future therapies might involve modifying neuroglial responses in the brain.

Vojdani, A., A. W. Campbell, et al. (2002). "Antibodies to neuron-specific antigens in children with autism: possible cross-reaction with encephalitogenic proteins from milk, Chlamydia pneumoniae and Streptococcus group A." J Neuroimmunol 129(1-2): 168-77.

We measured autoantibodies against nine different neuron-specific antigens and three cross-reactive peptides in the sera of autistic subjects and healthy controls by means of enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) testing. The antigens were myelin basic protein (MBP), myelin-associated glycoprotein (MAG), ganglioside (GM1), sulfatide (SULF), chondroitin sulfate (CONSO4), myelin oligodendrocyte glycoprotein (MOG), alpha,beta-crystallin (alpha,beta-CRYS), neurofilament proteins (NAFP), tubulin and three cross-reactive peptides, Chlamydia pneumoniae (CPP), streptococcal M protein (STM6P) and milk butyrophilin (BTN). Autistic children showed the highest levels of IgG, IgM and IgA antibodies against all neurologic antigens as well as the three cross-reactive peptides. These antibodies are specific because immune absorption demonstrated that only neuron-specific antigens or their cross-reactive epitopes could significantly reduce antibody levels. These antibodies may have been synthesized as a result of an alteration in the blood-brain barrier. This barrier promotes access of preexisting T-cells and central nervous system antigens to immunocompetent cells, which may start a vicious cycle. These results suggest a mechanism by which bacterial infections and milk antigens may modulate autoimmune responses in autism.

Vojdani, A., T. O'Bryan, et al. (2004). "Immune response to dietary proteins, gliadin and cerebellar peptides in children with autism." Nutr Neurosci 7(3): 151-61.

The mechanisms behind autoimmune reaction to nervous system antigens in autism are not understood. We assessed the reactivity of sera from 50 autism patients and 50 healthy controls to specific peptides from gliadin and the cerebellum. A significant percentage of autism patients showed elevations in antibodies against gliadin and cerebellar peptides simultaneously. For examining cross-reaction between dietary proteins and cerebellar antigens, antibodies were prepared in rabbits, and binding of rabbit anti-gliadin, anti-cerebellar peptides, anti-MBP, anti-milk, anti-egg, anti-soy and anti-corn to either gliadin- or cerebellar-antigen-coated wells was measured. In comparison to anti-gliadin peptide binding to gliadin peptide at 100%, the reaction of anti-cerebellar peptide to gliadin peptide was 22%, whereas the binding of anti-myelin basic protein (MBP), anti-milk, anti-egg and anti-soy to gliadin was less than 10%. Further examination of rabbit anti-gliadin (EQVPLVQQ) and anti-cerebellar (EDVPLLED) 8 amino acid (AA) peptides with human serum albumin (HSA) and an unrelated peptide showed no binding, but the reaction of these antibodies with both the cerebellar and gliadin peptides was greater than 60%. This cross-reaction was further confirmed by DOT-immunoblot and inhibition studies. We conclude that a subgroup of patients with autism produce antibodies against Purkinje cells and gliadin peptides, which may be responsible for some of the neurological symptoms in autism.

Warren, R. P., P. Cole, et al. (1990). "Detection of maternal antibodies in infantile autism." J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry 29(6): 873-7.

Maternal antibodies reactive with antigenic proteins expressed on the cell surface of paternal lymphocytes can be detected in couples with histories of more than one miscarriage or stillbirth. It is possible, but not proven, that these antibodies also react with tissues of the fetus and result in fetal death. Since many mothers of autistic children have a history of pregnancy disorder, antibodies were studied in 11 mothers of autistic children who were 6 years of age or younger. Six of the mothers had antibodies that reacted with lymphocytes of the autistic child. Five of these six mothers had a history of pregnancy disorder. Since antigens expressed on lymphocytes are found on cells of the central nervous system and, perhaps, other tissues of the developing embryo, it is suggested that aberrant maternal immunity may be associated with the development of some cases of infantile autism.

Weizman, A., R. Weizman, et al. (1982). "Abnormal immune response to brain tissue antigen in the syndrome of autism." Am J Psychiatry 139(11): 1462-5.

Cell-mediated immune response to human myelin basic protein was studied by the macrophage migration inhibition factor test in 17 autistic patients and a control group of 11 patients suffering from other mental diseases included in the differential diagnosis of the syndrome of autism. Of the 17 autistic patients, 13 demonstrated inhibition of macrophage migration, whereas none of the nonautistic patients showed such a response. The results indicate the existence of a cell-mediated immune response to brain tissue in the syndrome of autism.

Zakharenko, O. M., T. P. Kliushnik, et al. (1999). "[Nerve growth factor auto-antibodies in the sera of mothers of schizophrenic children and children from high risk group]." Zh Nevrol Psikhiatr Im S S Korsakova 99(3): 44-6.

A level of autoantibodies (aAB) to nerve growth factor (NGF) was measured in blood serum of children from 4 groups: 1) schizophrenic patients; 2) children from the families, in which one of the parents suffered with schizophrenia (high risk groups of schizophrenia); 3) children with residual-organic damages of CNS; 4) control group. This index was also determined in their mothers. Significant elevation of a titer of aAB to NGF was observed in blood of children from groups 1 and 2 as well as in their mothers, as compared with 3 and 4 groups. Among the mothers of the children from 1 and 2 groups there were met women with different endogenous mental disorders, with the disorders of personality as well as mentally healthy women. An increase of a level of aAB to NGF was found in all the women from groups 1 and 2, independently of their mental status including mentally healthy women. Such results allow to consider elevated level of aAB to NGF as a risk factor of mental pathology.

Zerrate, M. C., M. Pletnikov, et al. (2007). "Neuroinflammation and behavioral abnormalities after neonatal terbutaline treatment in rats: implications for autism." J Pharmacol Exp Ther 322(1): 16-22.

Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder presenting before 3 years of age with deficits in communication and social skills and repetitive behaviors. In addition to genetic influences, recent studies suggest that prenatal drug or chemical exposures are risk factors for autism. Terbutaline, a beta2-adrenoceptor agonist used to arrest preterm labor, has been associated with increased concordance for autism in dizygotic twins. We studied the effects of terbutaline on microglial activation in different brain regions and behavioral outcomes in developing rats. Newborn rats were given terbutaline (10 mg/kg) daily on postnatal days (PN) 2 to 5 or PN 11 to 14 and examined 24 h after the last dose and at PN 30. Immunohistochemical studies showed that administration of terbutaline on PN 2 to 5 produced a robust increase in microglial activation on PN 30 in the cerebral cortex, as well as in cerebellar and cerebrocortical white matter. None of these effects occurred in animals given terbutaline on PN 11 to 14. In behavioral tests, animals treated with terbutaline on PN 2 to 5 showed consistent patterns of hyper-reactivity to novelty and aversive stimuli when assessed in a novel open field, as well as in the acoustic startle response test. Our findings indicate that beta2-adrenoceptor overstimulation during an early critical period results in microglial activation associated with innate neuroinflammatory pathways and behavioral abnormalities, similar to those described in autism. This study provides a useful animal model for understanding the neuropathological processes underlying autism spectrum disorders.

Zimmerman, A. W., S. L. Connors, et al. (2007). "Maternal antibrain antibodies in autism." Brain Behav Immun 21(3): 351-7.

Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder of prenatal onset that is behaviorally defined. There is increasing evidence for systemic and neuroimmune mechanisms in children with autism. Although genetic factors are important, atypical prenatal maternal immune responses may also be linked to the pathogenesis of autism. We tested serum reactivity in 11 mothers and their autistic children, maternal controls, and several groups of control children, to prenatal, postnatal, and adult rat brain proteins, by immunoblotting. Similar patterns of reactivity to prenatal (gestational day 18), but not postnatal (day 8) or adult rat brain proteins were identified in autistic children, their mothers, and children with other neurodevelopmental disorders, and differed from mothers of normal children, normal siblings of children with autism and normal child controls. Specific patterns of antibody reactivity were present in sera from the autism mothers, from 2 to 18 years after the birth of their affected children and were unrelated to birth order. Immunoblotting using specific antigens for myelin basic protein (MBP) and glial acidic fibrillary protein (GFAP) suggests that these proteins were not targets of the maternal antibodies. The identification of specific serum antibodies in mothers of children with autism that recognize prenatally expressed brain antigens suggests that these autoantibodies could cross the placenta and alter fetal brain development.

Zimmerman, A. W., H. Jyonouchi, et al. (2005). "Cerebrospinal fluid and serum markers of inflammation in autism." Pediatr Neurol 33(3): 195-201.

Systemic immune abnormalities have no known relevance to brain dysfunction in autism. In order to find evidence for neuroinflammation, we compared levels of sensitive indicators of immune activation: quinolinic acid, neopterin, and biopterin, as well as multiple cytokines and cytokine receptors, in cerebrospinal fluid and serum from children with autism, to control subjects with other neurologic disorders. In cerebrospinal fluid from 12 children with autism, quinolinic acid (P = 0.037) and neopterin (P = 0.003) were decreased, and biopterin (P = 0.040) was elevated, compared with control subjects. In sera from 35 persons with autism, among cytokines, only tumor necrosis factor receptor II was elevated compared with controls (P < 0.02). Decreased quinolinic acid and neopterin in cerebrospinal fluid are paradoxical and suggest dysmaturation of metabolic pathways and absence of concurrent infection, respectively, in autism. Alternatively, they may be produced by microglia but remain localized and not expressed in cerebrospinal fluid.


Return to Autism Studies Table of Contents