Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by deficits in verbal communication, social interactions, and the presence of repetitive, stereotyped and compulsive behaviors. Excessive early brain growth is found commonly in some patients and may contribute to disease phenotype. Reports of increased levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and other neurotrophic-like factors in autistic neonates suggest that enhanced anabolic activity in CNS mediates this overgrowth effect. We have shown previously that in a subset of patients with severe autism and aggression, plasma levels of the secreted amyloid-β (Aβ) precursor protein-alpha form (sAPPα) were significantly elevated relative to controls and patients with mild-to-moderate autism. Here we further tested the hypothesis that levels of sAPPα and sAPPβ (proteolytic cleavage products of APP by α- and β-secretase, respectively) are deranged in autism and may contribute to an anabolic environment leading to brain overgrowth. We measured plasma levels of sAPPα, sAPPβ, Aβ peptides and BDNF by corresponding ELISA in a well characterized set of subjects. We included for analysis 18 control, 6 mild-to-moderate, and 15 severely autistic patient plasma samples. We have observed that sAPPα levels are increased and BDNF levels decreased in the plasma of patients with severe autism as compared to controls. Further, we show that Aβ1-40, Aβ1-42, and sAPPβ levels are significantly decreased in the plasma of patients with severe autism. These findings do not extend to patients with mild-to-moderate autism, providing a biochemical correlate of phenotypic severity. Taken together, this study provides evidence that sAPPα levels are generally elevated in severe autism and suggests that these patients may have aberrant non-amyloidogenic processing of APP.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)