Increasing evidence points to a central role for immune dysregulation in autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Several ASD risk genes encode components of the immune system and many maternal immune system-related risk factors - including autoimmunity, infection and fetal reactive antibodies - are associated with ASD. In addition, there is evidence of ongoing immune dysregulation in individuals with ASD and in animal models of this disorder. Recently, several molecular signalling pathways - including pathways downstream of cytokines, the receptor MET, major histocompatibility complex class I molecules, microglia and complement factors - have been identified that link immune activation to ASD phenotypes. Together, these findings indicate that the immune system is a point of convergence for multiple ASD-related genetic and environmental risk factors.
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