RELN-expressing neuron density in layer I of the superior temporal lobe is similar in human brains with autism and in age-matched controls

Neurosci Lett. 2014 Sep 5:579:163-7. doi: 10.1016/j.neulet.2014.07.031. Epub 2014 Jul 25.


Reelin protein (RELN) level is reduced in the cerebral cortex and cerebellum of subjects with autism. RELN is synthesized and secreted by a subpopulation of neurons in the developing cerebral cortex termed Cajal-Retzius (CR) cells. These cells are abundant in the marginal zone during cortical development, many die after development is complete, but a small population persists into adulthood. In adult brains, RELN is secreted by the surviving CR cells, by a subset of GABAergic interneurons in layer I, and by pyramidal cells and GABAergic interneurons in deeper cortical layers. It is widely believed that decreased RELN in layer I of the cerebral cortex of subjects with autism may result from a decrease in the density of RELN expressing neurons in layer I; however, this hypothesis has not been tested. We examined RELN expression in layer I of the adult human cortex and found that 70% of cells express RELN in both control and autistic subjects. We quantified the density of neurons in layer I of the superior temporal cortex of subjects with autism and age-matched control subjects. Our data show that there is no change in the density of neurons in layer I of the cortex of subjects with autism, and therefore suggest that reduced RELN expression in the cerebral cortex of subjects with autism is not a consequence of decreased numbers of RELN-expressing neurons in layer I. Instead reduced RELN may result from abnormal RELN processing, or a decrease in the number of other RELN-expressing neuronal cell types.

Keywords: Autism; Cajal–Retzius cells; Layer I; Postmortem; Reelin; Superior temporal cortex.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Autistic Disorder / metabolism
  • Autistic Disorder / pathology*
  • Cell Adhesion Molecules, Neuronal / biosynthesis*
  • Cell Count
  • Cerebral Cortex / metabolism
  • Cerebral Cortex / pathology
  • Extracellular Matrix Proteins / biosynthesis*
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / biosynthesis*
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Neurons / pathology*
  • Pyramidal Cells / metabolism
  • Reelin Protein
  • Serine Endopeptidases / biosynthesis*
  • Temporal Lobe / metabolism
  • Temporal Lobe / pathology*
  • Young Adult


  • Cell Adhesion Molecules, Neuronal
  • Extracellular Matrix Proteins
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • Reelin Protein
  • RELN protein, human
  • Serine Endopeptidases