Research Article| Volume 152, ISSUE 1-2, P176-182, July 2004

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Autoantibody repertoires to brain tissue in autism nuclear families


      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.


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