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Circulating Levels of 5-HT and BDNF in Adults with Autism Spectrum Conditions: An Investigation in a Sample of Subjects with Autism Spectrum Disorder, their First-degree Relatives and Controls

[ Vol. 31 , Issue. 6 ]


Barbara Carpita*, Rossella Stagnari, Lionella Palego, Dario Baroni, Gabriele Massimetti, Benedetta Nardi, Ivan Mirko Cremone, Laura Betti, Gino Giannaccini and Liliana Dell'Osso   Pages 776 - 790 ( 15 )


Background: Several studies investigated circulating levels of serotonin (5- HT) and brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) in children with Autism spectrum disorder (ASD). More limited literature focused on ASD adults or on populations with subthreshold autism spectrum manifestations, such as relatives of ASD probands. This study aimed to investigate 5-HT and BDNF levels in adults with autism spectrum conditions. Correlations between levels of biochemical variables and ASD symptoms were also evaluated.

Methods: a sample of ASD adults, their first-degree relatives (Broad autism phenotype, BAP group), and controls were recruited and assessed with psychometric scales. Blood samples were collected from all participants. 5-HT and BDNF levels were measured by means of ELISA kits.

Results: ASD adults showed significantly lower platelet-poor plasma (PPP) 5-HT levels than BAP and control groups. No significant difference was found among groups for PPP BDNF levels and intra-platelet 5-HT levels. 5-HT levels were reported to be specifically correlated with some autism symptoms.

Conclusion: This work highlighted the presence in ASD adults of reduced PPP 5-HT levels than in other groups, without significant differences with respect to BDNF levels, supporting the hypothesis that biochemical correlates of ASD in adults may be different from those typically reported in children.


BDNF, serotonin, autism, broad autism phenotype, biochemical correlates, probands.


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