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Cellular stress and apoptosis contribute to the pathogenesis of autism spectrum disorder.

Autism Res. 2018 May 15;:

Authors: Dong D, Zielke HR, Yeh D, Yang P

Abstract
The molecular pathogenesis of autism spectrum disorder, a neurodevelopmental disorder, is still elusive. In this study, we investigated the possible roles of endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress, oxidative stress, and apoptosis as molecular mechanisms underlying autism. This study compared the activation of ER stress signals (protein kinase R-like endoplasmic reticulum kinase [PERK], activating transcription factor 6 [ATF6], inositol-requiring enzyme 1 alpha [IRE1α]) in different brain regions (prefrontal cortex, hippocampus, cerebellum) in subjects with autism and in age-matched controls. Our data showed that the activation of three signals of ER stress varies in different regions of the autistic brain. IRE1α was activated in cerebellum and prefrontal cortex but ATF6 was activated in hippocampus. PERK was not activated in the three regions. Furthermore, the activation of ER stress was confirmed because the expression of C/EBP-homologous protein (CHOP), which is the common downstream indicators of ER stress signals, and most of ER chaperones were upregulated in the three regions. Consistent with the induction of ER stress, apoptosis was found in the three regions by detecting the cleavage of caspase 8 and poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase as well as using the transferase dUTP nick end labeling assay. Moreover, our data showed that oxidative stress was responsible for ER stress and apoptosis because the levels of 4-Hydroxynonenal and nitrotyrosine-modified proteins were significantly increased in the three regions. In conclusion, these data indicate that cellular stress and apoptosis may play important roles in the pathogenesis of autism. Autism Res 2018. © 2018 International Society for Autism Research, Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
LAY SUMMARY: Autism results in significant morbidity and mortality in children. The functional and molecular changes in the autistic brains are unclear. The present study utilized autistic brain tissues from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development’s Brain Tissue Bank for the analysis of cellular and molecular changes in autistic brains. Three key brain regions, the hippocampus, the cerebellum, and the frontal cortex, in six cases of autistic brains and six cases of non-autistic brains from 6 to 16 years old deceased children, were analyzed. The current study investigated the possible roles of endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress, oxidative stress, and apoptosis as molecular mechanisms underlying autism. The activation of three signals of ER stress (protein kinase R-like endoplasmic reticulum kinase, activating transcription factor 6, inositol-requiring enzyme 1 alpha) varies in different regions. The occurrence of ER stress leads to apoptosis in autistic brains. ER stress may result from oxidative stress because of elevated levels of the oxidative stress markers: 4-Hydroxynonenal and nitrotyrosine-modified proteins in autistic brains. These findings suggest that cellular stress and apoptosis may contribute to the autistic phenotype. Pharmaceuticals and/or dietary supplements, which can alleviate ER stress, oxidative stress and apoptosis, may be effective in ameliorating adverse phenotypes associated with autism.

PMID: 29761862 [PubMed – as supplied by publisher]

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