Decreased Numbers of CD57+CD3- Cells Identify Potential Innate Immune Differences in Patients with Autism Spectrum Disorder

In Vivo. 2016 Mar-Apr;30(2):83-9.


Background/aim: Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are complex, and severe heterogeneous neurodevelopmental pathologies with accepted but complex immune system abnormalities. Additional knowledge regarding potential immune dysfunctions may provide a greater understanding of this malady. The aim of this study was to evaluate the CD57(+)CD3(-) mature lymphocyte subpopulation of natural killer cells as a marker of immune dysfunction in ASD.

Materials and methods: Three-color flow cytometry-based analysis of fresh peripheral blood samples from children with autism was utilized to measure CD57(+)CD3(-) lymphocytes.

Results: A reduction of CD57(+)CD3(-) lymphocyte count was recorded in a significant number of patients with autism.

Discussion and conclusion: We demonstrated that the number of peripheral CD57(+)CD3(-) cells in children with autism often falls below the clinically accepted normal range. This implies that a defect in the counter-regulatory functions necessary for balancing pro-inflammatory cytokines exists, thus opening the way to chronic inflammatory conditions associated with ASD.

Keywords: Autism; CD57+CD3− lymphocytes; HNK-1; immune dysfunction.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder / immunology*
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder / metabolism
  • Biomarkers
  • CD3 Complex / metabolism
  • CD57 Antigens / metabolism
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Innate*
  • Immunophenotyping
  • Lymphocyte Count*
  • Lymphocyte Subsets / immunology*
  • Lymphocyte Subsets / metabolism
  • Male
  • Young Adult


  • Biomarkers
  • CD3 Complex
  • CD57 Antigens