Decreased Levels of EGF in Plasma of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology, University of California, Davis, USA.
Autism research and treatment 03/2012; 2012(10):205362. DOI: 10.1155/2012/205362
Source: PubMed


Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder estimated to affect 1 in 110 children in the U.S., yet the pathology of this disorder is not fully understood. Abnormal levels of several growth factors have been demonstrated in adults with ASD, including epidermal growth factor (EGF) and hepatocyte growth factor (HGF). Both of these growth factors serve important roles in neurodevelopment and immune function. In this study, concentrations of EGF and HGF were assessed in the plasma of 49 children with ASD aged 2-4 years old and 31 typically developing controls of a similar age as part of the Autism Phenome Project (APP). Levels of EGF were significantly reduced in the ASD group compared to typically developing controls (P = 0.003). There were no significant differences in HGF levels in young children with ASD and typically developing controls. EGF plays an important role in regulating neural growth, proliferation, differentiation and migration, and reduced levels of this molecule may negatively impact neurodevelopment in young children with ASD.

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    • "Frequency of EGF single-nucleotide polymorphisms is in children with autism.26 Plasma EGF levels in adults27 and children with autism11,28 were found to be significantly decreased. However, in one report of younger autistic children, EGF was increased.29 "
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    ABSTRACT: BACKGROUND One in 88 children in the US is thought to have one of the autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). ASDs are characterized by social impairments and communication problems. Growth factors and their receptors may play a role in the etiology of ASDs. Research has shown that epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) activation is associated with nerve cell development and repair. This study was designed to measure plasma levels of EGFR in autistic children and correlate these levels with its ligand, epidermal growth factor, other related putative biomarkers such as hepatocyte growth factor (HGF), the ligand for MET (MNNG HOS transforming gene) receptor, as well as the symptom severity of 19 different behavioral symptoms. SUBJECTS AND METHODS Plasma EGFR concentration was measured in 33 autistic children and 34 age- and gender-similar neurotypical controls, using an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. Plasma EGFR levels were compared to putative biomarkers known to be associated with EGFR and MET and severity levels of 19 autism-related symptoms. RESULTS We found plasma EGFR levels significantly higher in autistic children, when compared to neurotypical controls. EGFR levels correlated with HGF and high-mobility group protein B1 (HMGB1) levels, but not other tested putative biomarkers, and EGFR levels correlated significantly with severity of expressive language, conversational language, focus/attention, hyperactivity, eye contact, and sound sensitivity deficiencies. CONCLUSIONS These results suggest a relationship between increased plasma EGFR levels and designated symptom severity in autistic children. A strong correlation between plasma EGFR and HGF and HMGB1 suggests that increased EGFR levels may be associated with the HGF/Met signaling pathway, as well as inflammation.
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    ABSTRACT: Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs), characterized by impaired social interactions and deficits in verbal and nonverbal communication, are thought to affect 1 in 88 children in the United States. There is much support for the role of growth factors in the etiology of autism. Recent research has shown that epithelial growth factor (EGF) is decreased in young autistic children (2-4 years of age). This study was designed to determine plasma levels of EGF in an older group of autistic children (mean age 10.6 years) and to correlate these EGF levels with putative biomarkers HGF, uPA, uPAR, GAD2, MPO GABA, and HMGB1, as well as symptom severity of 19 different symptoms. Plasma from 38 autistic children, 11 children with pervasive developmental disorder (PDD-NOS) and 40 neurotypical, age and gender similar controls was assessed for EGF concentration using ELISAs. Severity of 19 symptoms (awareness, expressive language, receptive language, (conversational) pragmatic language, focus/attention, hyperactivity, impulsivity, perseveration, fine motor skills, gross motor skills, hypotonia (low muscle tone), tiptoeing, rocking/pacing, stimming, obsessions/fixations, eye contact, sound sensitivity, light sensitivity, and tactile sensitivity) was assessed and then compared to EGF concentrations. In this study, we found EGF levels in autistic children and those with PDD-NOS to be significantly lower when compared with neurotypical controls. EGF levels correlated with HMGB1 levels but not the other tested putative biomarkers, and EGF correlated negatively with hyperactivity, gross motor skills, and tiptoeing but not other symptoms. These results suggest an association between decreased plasma EGF levels and selected symptom severity. We also found a strong correlation between plasma EGF and HMGB1, suggesting inflammation is associated with decreased EGF.
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