Author(s): Needleman LA, McAllister AK
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Abstract Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a complex disorder that appears to be caused by interactions between genetic changes and environmental insults during early development. A wide range of factors have been linked to the onset of ASD, but recently both genetic associations and environmental factors point to a central role for immune-related genes and immune responses to environmental stimuli. Specifically, many of the proteins encoded by the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) play a vital role in the formation, refinement, maintenance, and plasticity of the brain. Manipulations of levels of MHC molecules have illustrated how disrupted MHC signaling can significantly alter brain connectivity and function. Thus, an emerging hypothesis in our field is that disruptions in MHC expression in the developing brain caused by mutations and/or immune dysregulation may contribute to the altered brain connectivity and function characteristic of ASD. This review provides an overview of the structure and function of the three classes of MHC molecules in the immune system, healthy brain, and their possible involvement in ASD. Copyright © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
This article was published in Dev Neurobiol
and referenced in Journal of Clinical & Medical Genomics