Metabolic effects of sapropterin treatment in autism spectrum disorder: a preliminary study

Transl Psychiatry. 2013 Mar 5;3(3):e237. doi: 10.1038/tp.2013.14.


Sapropterin, a synthetic form of tetrahydrobiopterin (BH4), has been reported to improve symptoms in children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). However, as BH4 is involved in multiple metabolic pathway that have been found to be dysregulated in ASD, including redox, pterin, monoamine neurotransmitter, nitric oxide (NO) and immune metabolism, the metabolic pathway by which sapropterin exerts its therapeutic effect in ASD effect remains unclear. This study investigated which metabolic pathways were associated with symptomatic improvement during sapropterin treatment. Ten participants (ages 2-6 years old) with current social and/or language delays, ASD and a central BH4 concentration 30 nM l(-1) were treated with a daily morning 20 mg kg(-1) dose of sapropterin for 16 weeks in an open-label fashion. At baseline, 8 weeks and 16 weeks after starting the treatment, measures of language, social function and behavior and biomarkers of redox, pterin, monoamine neurotransmitter, NO and immune metabolism were obtained. Two participants discontinued the study, one from mild adverse effects and another due to noncompliance. Overall, improvements in subscales of the Preschool Language Scale (PLS), Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scale (VABS), Aberrant Behavior Checklist (ABC) and autism symptoms questionnaire (ASQ) were seen. Significant changes in biomarkers of pterin, redox and NO were found. Improvement on several subscales of the PLS, VABS, ABC and ASQ were moderated by baseline and changes in biomarkers of NO and pterin metabolism, particularly baseline NO metabolism. These data suggest that behavioral improvement associated with daily 20 mg kg(-1) sapropterin treatment may involve NO metabolism, particularly the status of pretreatment NO metabolism.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Biopterin / analogs & derivatives*
  • Biopterin / blood
  • Biopterin / therapeutic use
  • Child
  • Child Behavior / drug effects
  • Child Development Disorders, Pervasive / blood*
  • Child Development Disorders, Pervasive / drug therapy*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Language Development
  • Male
  • Nitrous Oxide / blood
  • Oxidation-Reduction / drug effects
  • Prospective Studies
  • Pterins / blood


  • Biomarkers
  • Pterins
  • Biopterin
  • sapropterin
  • Nitrous Oxide