Impact of acamprosate on plasma amyloid-β precursor protein in youth: A pilot analysis in fragile X syndrome-associated and idiopathic autism spectrum disorder suggests a pharmacodynamic protein marker

Craig A. Erickson, Balmiki Ray, Bryan Maloney, Logan K. Wink, Katherine Bowers, Tori L. Schaefer, Christopher J. McDougle, Deborah K. Sokol, Debomoy K. Lahiri

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

28 Scopus citations


Background: Understanding of the pathophysiology of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) remains limited. Brain overgrowth has been hypothesized to be associated with the development of ASD. A derivative of amyloid-β precursor protein (APP), secreted APPα (sAPPα), has neuroproliferative effects and has been shown to be elevated in the plasma of persons with ASD compared to control subjects. Reduction in sAPPα holds promise as a novel molecular target of treatment in ASD. Research into the neurochemistry of ASD has repeatedly implicated excessive glutamatergic and deficient GABAergic neurotransmission in the disorder. With this in mind, acamprosate, a novel modulator of glutamate and GABA function, has been studied in ASD. No data is available on the impact of glutamate or GABA modulation on sAPPα function. Methods: Plasma APP derivative levels pre- and post-treatment with acamprosate were determined in two pilot studies involving youth with idiopathic and fragile X syndrome (FXS)-associated ASD. We additionally compared baseline APP derivative levels between youth with FXS-associated or idiopathic ASD. Results: Acamprosate use was associated with a significant reduction in plasma sAPP(total) and sAPPα levels but no change occurred in Aβ40 or Aβ42 levels in 15 youth with ASD (mean age: 11.1 years). Youth with FXS-associated ASD (n=12) showed increased sAPPα processing compared to age-, gender- and IQ-match youth with idiopathic ASD (n=11). Conclusions: Plasma APP derivative analysis holds promise as a potential biomarker for use in ASD targeted treatment. Reduction in sAPP (total) and sAPPα may be a novel pharmacodynamic property of acamprosate. Future study is required to address limitations of the current study to determine if baseline APP derivative analysis may predict subgroups of persons with idiopathic or FXS-associated ASD who may respond best to acamprosate or to potentially other modulators of glutamate and/or GABA neurotransmission.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)220-228
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Psychiatric Research
StatePublished - Dec 1 2014



  • Acamprosate
  • Amyloid precursor protein
  • Autism spectrum disorder
  • Biomarker
  • GABA
  • Glutamate

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)

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