Relationship between chronic lead toxicity and plasma neurotransmitters in autistic patients from Saudi Arabia

Clin Biochem. 2011 Sep;44(13):1116-1120. doi: 10.1016/j.clinbiochem.2011.06.982. Epub 2011 Jul 6.


Objective: This study aims to clarify the relationship between blood Pb(2+) concentration as a ubiquitous environmental pollutant and plasma neurotransmitters as biochemical parameters that reflect brain function in Saudi autistic patients.

Methods: RBC's lead content together with plasma concentration of gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA), serotonin (5HT) and dopamine (DA) were measured in 25 Saudi autistic patients and compared to 16 age-matching control samples.

Results: The obtained data recorded that Saudi autistic patients have a remarkable higher levels of Pb(2+) and significantly elevated levels of GABA, 5HT and DA compared to healthy subjects. ROC analysis revealed satisfactory values of specificity and sensitivity of the measured parameters.

Conclusion: This study suggests that postnatal lead toxicity in autistic patients of Saudi Arabia could represent a causative factor in the pathogenesis of autism. Elevated GABA, 5HT and DA were discussed in relation to the chronic lead toxicity recorded in the investigated autistic samples.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Autistic Disorder / etiology*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Dopamine / analysis
  • Dopamine / blood
  • Erythrocytes / chemistry*
  • Humans
  • Lead / analysis
  • Lead / blood
  • Lead Poisoning / blood
  • Lead Poisoning / complications*
  • Neurotransmitter Agents / analysis*
  • Neurotransmitter Agents / blood
  • ROC Curve
  • Saudi Arabia / epidemiology
  • Serotonin / analysis
  • Serotonin / blood
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid / analysis
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid / blood


  • Neurotransmitter Agents
  • Lead
  • Serotonin
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid
  • Dopamine