Immune Endophenotypes in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

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60 Scopus citations


Background: Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is characterized by social communication deficits and restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior. Varied immunological findings have been reported in children with ASD. To address the question of heterogeneity in immune responses, we sought to examine the diversity of immune profiles within a representative cohort of boys with ASD. Methods: Peripheral blood mononuclear cells from male children with ASD (n = 50) and from typically developing age-matched male control subjects (n = 16) were stimulated with either lipopolysaccharide or phytohemagglutinin. Cytokine production was assessed after stimulation. The ASD study population was clustered into subgroups based on immune responses and assessed for behavioral outcomes. Results: Children with ASD who had a proinflammatory profile based on lipopolysaccharide stimulation were more developmentally impaired as assessed by the Mullen Scales of Early Learning. They also had greater impairments in social affect as measured by the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule. These children also displayed more frequent sleep disturbances and episodes of aggression. Similarly, children with ASD and a more activated T cell cytokine profile after phytohemagglutinin stimulation were more developmentally impaired as measured by the Mullen Scales of Early Learning. Conclusions: Children with ASD may be phenotypically characterized based upon their immune profile. Those showing either an innate proinflammatory response or increased T cell activation/skewing display a more impaired behavioral profile than children with noninflamed or non-T cell activated immune profiles. These data suggest that there may be several possible immune subphenotypes within the ASD population that correlate with more severe behavioral impairments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalBiological Psychiatry
StateAccepted/In press - Apr 27 2015


  • Autism spectrum disorder
  • Behavior
  • Children
  • Cluster analysis
  • Cytokine
  • Endophenotyping
  • Immune

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biological Psychiatry


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