Amniotic fluid inflammatory cytokines: potential markers of immunologic dysfunction in autism spectrum disorders

World J Biol Psychiatry. 2013 Sep;14(7):528-38. doi: 10.3109/15622975.2011.639803. Epub 2011 Dec 19.


Objectives: The aim of the study was to analyze cytokine profiles in amniotic fluid (AF) samples of children developing autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and controls, adjusting for maternal autoimmune disorders and maternal infections during pregnancy.

Methods: AF samples of 331 ASD cases and 698 controls were analyzed for inflammatory cytokines using Luminex xMAP technology utilizing a historic birth cohort. Clinical data were retrieved from nationwide registers, and case-control differences in AF cytokine levels were assessed using chi-square tests, logistic and tobit regression models.

Results: Overall, individuals with ASD had significantly elevated AF levels of TNF-α and TNF-β compared to controls. Analyzing individuals diagnosed only with ICD-10 codes yielded significantly elevated levels of IL-4, IL-10, TNF-α and TNF-β in ASD patients. Restricting analysis to infantile autism cases showed significantly elevated levels of IL-4, TNF-α and TNF-β compared to controls with no psychiatric comorbidities. Elevated levels of IL-6 and IL-5 were found in individuals with other childhood psychiatric disorders (OCPD) when compared to controls with no psychiatric comorbidities.

Conclusions: AF samples of individuals with ASD or OCPD showed differential cytokine profiles compared to frequency-matched controls. Further studies to examine the specificity of the reported cytokine profiles in ASD and OCPD are required.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age of Onset
  • Amniotic Fluid / immunology*
  • Amniotic Fluid / physiology
  • Biomarkers / metabolism
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Child Development Disorders, Pervasive / epidemiology*
  • Child Development Disorders, Pervasive / genetics
  • Child Development Disorders, Pervasive / immunology*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Compulsive Personality Disorder / epidemiology
  • Compulsive Personality Disorder / immunology
  • Cytokines / adverse effects
  • Cytokines / physiology*
  • Denmark
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / immunology
  • Inflammation / metabolism
  • Inflammation / pathology
  • Inflammation Mediators / adverse effects
  • Inflammation Mediators / physiology*
  • Pregnancy
  • Registries / statistics & numerical data


  • Biomarkers
  • Cytokines
  • Inflammation Mediators