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BACKGROUND: Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a complex neurodevelopmental condition with a wide range of behavioral and cognitive impairments. While genetic and environmental factors are known to contribute to its etiology, the underlying metabolic perturbations associated with ASD which can potentially connect genetic and environmental factors, remain poorly understood. Therefore, we conducted a metabolomic case-control study and performed a comprehensive analysis to identify significant alterations in metabolite profiles between children with ASD and typically developing (TD) controls.

OBJECTIVE: To elucidate potential metabolomic signatures associated with ASD in children and identify specific metabolites that may serve as biomarkers for the disorder.

METHODS: We conducted metabolomic profiling on plasma samples from participants in the second phase of Epidemiological Research on Autism in Jamaica (ERAJ-2), which was a 1:1 age (±6 months)-and sex-matched cohort of 200 children with ASD and 200 TD controls (2-8 years old). Using high-throughput liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry techniques, we performed a targeted metabolite analysis, encompassing amino acids, lipids, carbohydrates, and other key metabolic compounds. After quality control and imputation of missing values, we performed univariable and multivariable analysis using normalized metabolites while adjusting for covariates, age, sex, socioeconomic status, and child's parish of birth.

RESULTS: Our findings revealed unique metabolic patterns in children with ASD for four metabolites compared to TD controls. Notably, three of these metabolites were fatty acids, including myristoleic acid, eicosatetraenoic acid, and octadecenoic acid. Additionally, the amino acid sarcosine exhibited a significant association with ASD.

CONCLUSIONS: These findings highlight the role of metabolites in the etiology of ASD and suggest opportunities for the development of targeted interventions.


Autism spectrum disorder, amino acid, fatty acids, metabolites



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