The neurobiology of lipid metabolism in autism spectrum disorders

Neurosignals. 2010;18(2):98-112. doi: 10.1159/000323189. Epub 2011 Feb 4.


Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by impairments in communication and reciprocal social interaction, coupled with repetitive behavior, which typically manifests by 3 years of age. Multiple genes and early exposure to environmental factors are the etiological determinants of the disorder that contribute to variable expression of autism-related traits. Increasing evidence indicates that altered fatty acid metabolic pathways may affect proper function of the nervous system and contribute to autism spectrum disorders. This review provides an overview of the reported abnormalities associated with the synthesis of membrane fatty acids in individuals with autism as a result of insufficient dietary supplementation or genetic defects. Moreover, we discuss deficits associated with the release of arachidonic acid from the membrane phospholipids and its subsequent metabolism to bioactive prostaglandins via phospholipase A(2)-cyclooxygenase biosynthetic pathway in autism spectrum disorders. The existing evidence for the involvement of lipid neurobiology in the pathology of neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism is compelling and opens up an interesting possibility for further investigation of this metabolic pathway.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child Development Disorders, Pervasive / metabolism*
  • Child Development Disorders, Pervasive / pathology
  • Child Development Disorders, Pervasive / physiopathology*
  • Child Development Disorders, Pervasive / therapy
  • Fatty Acids / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Lipid Metabolism*
  • Models, Biological
  • Nervous System / metabolism
  • Neurobiology*
  • Oxidative Stress / physiology
  • Signal Transduction


  • Fatty Acids