alexa Mitochondrial dysfunction in autism.
Psychiatry

Psychiatry

Epilepsy Journal

Author(s): Legido A, Jethva R, Goldenthal M

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Using data of the current prevalence of autism as 200:10,000 and a 1:2000 incidence of definite mitochondrial (mt) disease, if there was no linkage of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and mt disease, it would be expected that 1 in 110 subjects with mt disease would have ASD and 1 in 2000 individuals with ASD would have mt disease. The co-occurrence of autism and mt disease is much higher than these figures, suggesting a possible pathogenetic relationship. Such hypothesis was initially suggested by the presence of biochemical markers of abnormal mt metabolic function in patients with ASD, including elevation of lactate, pyruvate, or alanine levels in blood, cerebrospinal fluid, or brain; carnitine level in plasma; and level of organic acids in urine, and by demonstrating impaired mt fatty acid β-oxidation. More recently, mtDNA genetic mutations or deletions or mutations of nuclear genes regulating mt function have been associated with ASD in patients or in neuropathologic studies on the brains of patients with autism. In addition, the presence of dysfunction of the complexes of the mt respiratory chain or electron transport chain, indicating abnormal oxidative phosphorylation, has been reported in patients with ASD and in the autopsy samples of brains. Possible pathogenetic mechanisms linking mt dysfunction and ASD include mt activation of the immune system, abnormal mt Ca2+ handling, and mt-induced oxidative stress. Genetic and epigenetic regulation of brain development may also be disrupted by mt dysfunction, including mt-induced oxidative stress. The role of the purinergic system linking mt dysfunction and ASD is currently under investigation. In summary, there is genetic and biochemical evidence for a mitochondria (mt) role in the pathogenesis of ASD in a subset of children. To determine the prevalence and type of genetic and biochemical mt defects in ASD, there is a need for further research using the latest genetic technology such as next-generation sequencing, microarrays, bioinformatics, and biochemical assays. Because of the availability of potential therapeutic options for mt disease, successful research results could translate into better treatment and outcome for patients with mt-associated ASD. This requires a high index of suspicion of mt disease in children with autism who are diagnosed early.

This article was published in Seminars in Pediatric Neurology and referenced in Epilepsy Journal

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