Background: Some children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are characterized by fluctuating behavioral symptoms following immune insults, persistent gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms, and a lack of response to the first-line intervention measures. These children have been categorized as the ASD-inflammatory subtype (ASD-IS) for this study. We reported a high prevalence of non-IgE mediated food allergy (NFA) in young ASD children before, but not all ASD/NFA children reveal such clinical features of ASD-IS. This study addressed whether behavioral changes of ASD-IS are associated with innate immune abnormalities manifested in isolated peripheral blood (PB) monocytes (Mo), major innate immune cells in the PB. Methods: This study includes three groups of ASD subjects (ASD-IS subjects (N = 24), ASD controls with a history of NFA (ASD/NFA (N = 20), and ASD/non-NFA controls (N = 20)) and three groups of non-ASD controls (non-ASD/NFA subjects (N = 16), those diagnosed with pediatric acute onset-neuropsychiatric syndrome (PANS, N = 18), and normal controls without NFA or PANS (N = 16)). Functions of purified PB Mo were assessed by measuring the production of inflammatory and counter-regulatory cytokines with or without stimuli of innate immunity (lipopolysaccharide (LPS), zymosan, CL097, and candida heat extracts as a source of β-lactam). In ASD-IS and PANS subjects, these assays were done in the state of behavioral exacerbation ('flare') and in the stable ('non-flare') condition. ASD-IS children in the 'flare' state revealed worsening irritability, lethargy and hyperactivity. Results: 'Flare' ASD-IS PB Mo produced higher amounts of inflammatory cytokines (IL-1β and IL-6) without stimuli than 'non-flare' ASD-IS cells. With zymosan, 'flare' ASD-IS cells produced more IL-1β than most control cells, despite spontaneous production of large amounts of IL-1β. Moreover, 'flare' ASD-IS Mo produced less IL-10, a counterregulatory cytokine, in response to stimuli than 'non-flare' cells or other control cells. These changes were not observed in PANS cells. Conclusions: We observed an imbalance in the production of inflammatory (IL-1β and IL-6) and counterregulatory (IL-10) cytokines by 'flare' ASD-IS monocytes, which may indicate an association between intrinsic abnormalities of PB Mo and changes in behavioral symptoms in the ASD-IS subjects.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
- GI symptoms
- Inflammatory subtype
- Neuroimmune network