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Maternal Antibody Binding to Lymphocytes of Offspring with Autism
The origins of autism are prenatal, though the biological mechanisms specifically causing changes in brain function have yet to be identified. Besides genetic factors, the maternal uterine environment may contribute to this disorder. Previous studies have shown that maternal antibodies bind to lymphocytes of those mothers’ autistic children, and are cytotoxic to the cells (Warren et al, 1990). When maternal antibodies from a mother with an autistic child were injected into pregnant mice, they bound to Purkinje cells in the cerebella of the offspring and caused behavioral abnormalities (Dalton et al, 2003). We have recently shown that patterns of serum antibodies directed against fetal rat brain are different in mothers of autistic children compared to those in mothers of normal children (Zimmerman et al, 2006).
Despite the possibility that antibodies may be involved in the prenatal etiology of autism, it is unknown whether maternal antibodies change molecular cell signaling or affect cell function. We hypothesize that maternal antibodies may change cellular function in the lymphocytes of the mothers’ autistic children. This may be important in studying potential biological mechanisms for the etiology of autism. If these maternal antibodies were present at the time of conception and early pregnancy, it is possible that they could have affected prenatal brain development.