Hippocampal Metabolite Profiles in Two Rat Models of Autism: NMR-Based Metabolomics Studies

Mol Neurobiol. 2020 Jul;57(7):3089-3105. doi: 10.1007/s12035-020-01935-0. Epub 2020 May 28.


Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) are increasingly being diagnosed. Hypotheses link ASD to genetic, epigenetic, or environmental factors. The role of oxidative stress and the imbalance between excitatory and inhibitory neurotransmission in the pathogenesis of ASD has been suggested. Rats in which ASD symptoms are induced by valproate (VPA) or thalidomide (THAL) application in utero are useful models in ASD studies. Our study investigated whether rats in ASD models show changes in metabolite levels in the brain consistent with the hypothetical pathomechanisms of ASD. Female rats were fed one dose of 800 mg/kg VPA or 500 mg/kg THAL orally on the 11th day of gestation, and 1-month offspring were used for the experiments. Metabolic profiles from proton nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy of hydrophilic and hydrophobic extracts of rat hippocampi were subjected to OPLS-DA statistical analysis. Large differences between both models in the content of several metabolites in the rat hippocampus were noticed. The following metabolic pathways were identified as being disturbed in both ASD models: steroid hormone biosynthesis; fatty acid biosynthesis; the synthesis and degradation of ketone bodies; glycerophospholipid metabolism; cholesterol metabolism; purine metabolism; arginine and proline metabolism; valine, leucine, and isoleucine biosynthesis and degradation. These results indicate disorders of energy metabolism, altered structure of cell membranes, changes in neurotransmission, and the induction of oxidative stress in the hippocampus. Our data, consistent with hypotheses of ASD pathomechanisms, may be useful in future ASD studies, especially for the interpretation of the results of metabolomics analysis of body fluids in rat ASD models.

Keywords: Autism; Metabolomics; NMR spectroscopy.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Autistic Disorder / metabolism*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Female
  • Hippocampus / metabolism*
  • Lipid Metabolism / physiology
  • Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy
  • Metabolic Networks and Pathways / physiology*
  • Metabolome / physiology*
  • Metabolomics
  • Rats