Aberrant NF-KappaB Expression in Autism Spectrum Condition: A Mechanism for Neuroinflammation

Bute Medical School, University of St. Andrews Fife, Scotland, UK.
Frontiers in Psychiatry 01/2011; 2(3):27. DOI: 10.3389/fpsyt.2011.00027
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Autism spectrum condition (ASC) is recognized as having an inflammatory component. Post-mortem brain samples from patients with ASC display neuroglial activation and inflammatory markers in cerebrospinal fluid, although little is known about the underlying molecular mechanisms. Nuclear factor kappa-light-chain-enhancer of activated B cells (NF-κB) is a protein found in almost all cell types and mediates regulation of immune response by inducing the expression of inflammatory cytokines and chemokines, establishing a feedback mechanism that can produce chronic or excessive inflammation. This article describes immunodetection and immunofluorescence measurements of NF-κB in human post-mortem samples of orbitofrontal cortex tissue donated to two independent centers: London Brain Bank, Kings College London, UK (ASC: n = 3, controls: n = 4) and Autism Tissue Program, Harvard Brain Bank, USA (ASC: n = 6, controls: n = 5). The hypothesis was that concentrations of NF-κB would be elevated, especially in activated microglia in ASC, and pH would be concomitantly reduced (i.e., acidification). Neurons, astrocytes, and microglia all demonstrated increased extranuclear and nuclear translocated NF-κB p65 expression in brain tissue from ASC donors relative to samples from matched controls. These between-groups differences were increased in astrocytes and microglia relative to neurons, but particularly pronounced for highly mature microglia. Measurement of pH in homogenized samples demonstrated a 0.98-unit difference in means and a strong (F = 98.3; p = 0.00018) linear relationship to the expression of nuclear translocated NF-κB in mature microglia. Acridine orange staining localized pH reductions to lysosomal compartments. In summary, NF-κB is aberrantly expressed in orbitofrontal cortex in patients with ASC, as part of a putative molecular cascade leading to inflammation, especially of resident immune cells in brain regions associated with the behavioral and clinical symptoms of ASC.

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