“Despite increasing evidence of oxidative stress in the pathophysiology of autism, most studies have not evaluated biomarkers within specific brain regions, and the functional consequences of oxidative stress remain relatively understudied. We examined frozen samples from the cerebellum and temporal cortex (Brodmann area 22 (BA22)) from individuals with autism and unaffected controls (n=15 and n=12 per group, respectively). Biomarkers of oxidative stress, including reduced glutathione (GSH), oxidized glutathione (GSSG) and glutathione redox/antioxidant capacity (GSH/GSSG), were measured. Biomarkers of oxidative protein damage (3-nitrotyrosine; 3-NT) and oxidative DNA damage (8-oxo-deoxyguanosine; 8-oxo-dG) were also assessed. Functional indicators of oxidative stress included relative levels of 3-chlorotyrosine (3-CT), an established biomarker of a chronic inflammatory response, and aconitase activity, a biomarker of mitochondrial superoxide production. Consistent with previous studies on plasma and immune cells, GSH and GSH/GSSG were significantly decreased in both autism cerebellum (P<0.01) and BA22 (P<0.01).

There was a significant increase in 3-NT in the autism cerebellum and BA22 (P<0.01). Similarly, 8-oxo-dG was significantly increased in autism cerebellum and BA22 (P<0.01 and P=0.01, respectively), and was inversely correlated with GSH/GSSG in the cerebellum (P<0.01). There was a significant increase in 3-CT levels in both brain regions (P<0.01), whereas aconitase activity was significantly decreased in autism cerebellum (P<0.01), and was negatively correlated with GSH/GSSG (P=0.01).

Together, these results indicate that decreased GSH/GSSG redox/antioxidant capacity and increased oxidative stress in the autism brain may have functional consequence in terms of a chronic inflammatory response, increased mitochondrial superoxide production, and oxidative protein and DNA damage.”

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