Maternal and cord plasma metabolomics were used to elucidate biological pathways associated with increased diagnosis risk for autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Metabolome-wide associations were assessed in both maternal and umbilical cord plasma in relation to diagnoses of ASD and other non-typical development (Non-TD) compared to typical development (TD) in the Markers of Autism risk in Babies: Learning Early Signs (MARBLES) cohort study of children born to mothers who already have at least one child with ASD. Analyses were stratified by sample matrix type, machine mode, and annotation confidence level. Dimensionality reduction techniques were used [i.e, principal component analysis (PCA) and random subset weighted quantile sum regression (WQSRS)] to minimize the high multiple comparison burden. With WQSRS, a metabolite mixture obtained from the negative mode of maternal plasma decreased the odds of Non-TD compared to TD. These metabolites, all related to the prostaglandin pathway, underscored the relevance of neuroinflammation status. No other significant findings were observed. Dimensionality reduction strategies provided confirming evidence that a set of maternal plasma metabolites are important in distinguishing Non-TD compared to TD diagnosis. A lower risk for Non-TD was linked to anti-inflammatory elements, thereby linking neuroinflammation to detrimental brain function consistent with studies ranging from neurodevelopment to neurodegeneration.
Keywords: autism; cord blood; metabolomics; neuroinflammation; non-typical development; pregnancy; prostaglandins.