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Gene expression changes in children with autism

The objective of this study was to identify gene expression differences in blood differences in children with autism (AU) and autism spectrum disorder (ASD) compared to general population controls. Transcriptional profiles were compared with age- and gender-matched, typically developing children from the general population (GP). The AU group was subdivided based on a history of developmental regression (A-R) or a history of early onset (A-E without regression). Total RNA from blood was processed on human Affymetrix microarrays. Thirty-five children with AU (17 with early onset autism and 18 with autism with regression) and 14 ASD children (who did not meet criteria for AU) were compared to 12 GP children. Unpaired t tests (corrected for multiple comparisons with a false discovery rate of 0.05) detected a number of genes that were regulated more than 1.5-fold for AU versus GP (n=55 genes), for A-E versus GP (n=140 genes), for A-R versus GP (n=20 genes), and for A-R versus A-E (n=494 genes). No genes were significantly regulated for ASD versus GP. There were 11 genes shared between the comparisons of all autism subgroups to GP (AU, A-E, and A-R versus GP) and these genes were all expressed in natural killer cells and many belonged to the KEGG natural killer cytotoxicity pathway (p=0.02). A subset of these genes (n=7) was tested with qRT-PCR and all genes were found to be differentially expressed (p<0.05). We conclude that the gene expression data support emerging evidence for abnormalities in peripheral blood leukocytes in autism that could represent a genetic and/or environmental predisposition to the disorder.

Authors: Gregg JP; Lit L; Baron CA; Hertz-Picciotto I; Walker W; Davis RA; Croen LA; Ozonoff S; Hansen R; Pessah IN; Sharp FR

Genomics. 2008 Jan;91(1):22-9. Epub 2007 Nov 14.

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