Background: The neurobiological basis for autism remains poorly understood. Given the key role of transforming growth factor-beta1 (TGF-beta1) in brain development, we hypothesized that TGF-beta1 plays a role in the pathophysiology of autism. In this study, we studied whether serum levels of TGF-beta1 are altered in patients with autism.
Methods: We measured serum levels of TGF-beta1 in 19 male adult patients with autism and 21 age-matched male healthy subjects using enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA).
Results: The serum levels (7.34+/-5.21 ng/mL (mean+/-S.D.)) of TGF-beta1 in the patients with autism were significantly (z=-5.106, p<0.001) lower than those (14.48+/-1.64 ng/mL (mean+/-S.D.)) of normal controls. However, there were no marked or significant correlations between serum TGF-beta1 levels and other clinical variables, including Autism Diagnostic Interview-Revised (ADI-R) scores, Yale-Brown Obsessive-Compulsive Scale (Y-BOCS), aggression, Theory of Mind, and Intellectual Quotient (IQ) in patients.
Conclusions: These findings suggest that decreased levels of TGF-beta1 may be implicated in the pathophysiology of autism.