The major histocompatibility complex and autism spectrum disorder

Leigh A. Needleman, A Kimberley Usrey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

29 Scopus citations

Abstract

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a complex disorder that appears to be caused by interactions between genetic changes and environmental insults during early development. A wide range of factors have been linked to the onset of ASD, but recently both genetic associations and environmental factors point to a central role for immune-related genes and immune responses to environmental stimuli. Specifically, many of the proteins encoded by the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) play a vital role in the formation, refinement, maintenance, and plasticity of the brain. Manipulations of levels of MHC molecules have illustrated how disrupted MHC signaling can significantly alter brain connectivity and function. Thus, an emerging hypothesis in our field is that disruptions in MHC expression in the developing brain caused by mutations and/or immune dysregulation may contribute to the altered brain connectivity and function characteristic of ASD. This review provides an overview of the structure and function of the three classes of MHC molecules in the immune system, healthy brain, and their possible involvement in ASD.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1288-1301
Number of pages14
JournalDevelopmental Neurobiology
Volume72
Issue number10
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 2012

Keywords

  • Genetics
  • Maternal infection
  • Neuroimmunology
  • Synapse formation
  • Synaptic plasticity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Developmental Neuroscience

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