Peptides of neuron specific enolase as potential ASD biomarkers: From discovery to epitope mapping

Alexandra Ramirez-Celis, Elizabeth Edmiston, Joseph Schauer, Tam Vu, Judy Van de Water

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is an important health issue and affects 1 in 59 children in the US. Prior studies determined that maternal autoantibody related (MAR) autism is thought to be associated with ~23% of ASD cases. We previously identified seven MAR-specific autoantigens including CRMP1, CRMP2, GDA, LDHA, LDHB, STIP1, and YBX1. We subsequently described the epitope peptide sequences recognized by maternal autoantibodies for each of the seven ASD-specific autoantigens. The aim of the current study was to expand upon our previous work and identify additional antigens recognized by the ASD-specific maternal autoantibodies, as well as to map the unique ASD-specific epitopes using microarray technology. Fetal Rhesus macaque brain tissues were separated by molecular weight and a fraction containing bands between 37 and 45 kDa was analyzed using 2-D gel electrophoresis, followed by peptide mass mapping using MALDI-TOF MS and TOF/TOF tandem MS/MS. Using this methodology, Neuron specific enolase (NSE) was identified as a target autoantigen and selected for epitope mapping. The full NSE sequence was translated into 15-mer peptides with an overlap of 14 amino acids onto microarray slides and probed with maternal plasma from mothers with an ASD child and from mothers with a Typically Developing child (TD) (ASD = 27 and TD = 21). The resulting data were analyzed by T-test. We found 16 ASD-specific NSE-peptide sequences for which four sequences were statistically significant (p < 0.05) using both the t-test and SAM t-test: DVAASEFYRDGKYDL (p = 0.047; SAM score 1.49), IEDPFDQDDWAAWSK (p = 0.049; SAM score 1.49), ERLAKYNQLMRIEEE (p = 0.045; SAM score 1.57), and RLAKYNQLMRIEEEL (p = 0.017; SAM score 1.82). We further identified 5 sequences that were recognized by both ASD and TD antibodies suggesting a large immunodominant epitope (DYPVVSIEDPFDQDDWAAW). While maternal autoantibodies against the NSE protein are present both in mothers with ASD and mothers of TD children, there are several ASD-specific epitopes that can potentially be used as MAR ASD biomarkers. Further, studies including analysis of NSE as a target protein in combination with the previously identified MAR ASD autoantigens are currently underway.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalBrain, Behavior, and Immunity
StateAccepted/In press - Jan 1 2019


  • 2-D gel
  • Autism
  • Autoantibody
  • Epitope
  • Microarray
  • Mimitope
  • Peptide
  • Protein
  • Western blot

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


Dive into the research topics of 'Peptides of neuron specific enolase as potential ASD biomarkers: From discovery to epitope mapping'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this