Monoamine oxidase-A and B activities in the cerebellum and frontal cortex of children and young adults with autism

J Neurosci Res. 2017 Oct;95(10):1965-1972. doi: 10.1002/jnr.24027. Epub 2017 Feb 2.


Monoamine oxidases (MAOs) catalyze the metabolism of monoamine neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine, and are key regulators for brain function. In this study, we analyzed the activities of MAO-A and MAO-B in the cerebellum and frontal cortex from subjects with autism and age-matched control subjects. In the cerebellum, MAO-A activity in subjects with autism (aged 4-38 years) was significantly lower by 20.6% than in controls. When the subjects were divided into children (aged 4-12 years) and young adults (aged 13-38 years) subgroups, a significant decrease by 27.8% in the MAO-A activity was observed only in children with autism compared with controls. When the 95% confidence interval of the control group was taken as a reference range, reduced activity of MAO-A was observed in 70% of children with autism. In the frontal cortex, MAO-A activity in children with autism was also lower by 30% than in the control group, and impaired activity of MAO-A was observed in 55.6% of children with autism, although the difference between the autism and control groups was not significant when all subjects were considered. On the contrary, there was no significant difference in MAO-B activity in both the cerebellum and frontal cortex between children with autism and the control group as well as in adults. These results suggest impaired MAO-A activity in the brain of subjects with autism, especially in children with autism. Decreased activity of MAOs may lead to increased levels of monoaminergic neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, which have been suggested to have a critical role in autism. © 2017 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

Keywords: MAOA; MAOB; autism; monoamine oxidases (MAOs); oxidative stress; serotonin.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Autistic Disorder / enzymology*
  • Brain Chemistry
  • Cerebellum / enzymology*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Frontal Lobe / enzymology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Monoamine Oxidase / metabolism*
  • Young Adult


  • Monoamine Oxidase
  • monoamine oxidase A, human