Aberrant NF-kappaB expression in autism spectrum condition: a mechanism for neuroinflammation

Adam Young, Elaine Catherine Campbell, Sarah Janice Lynch, John Suckling, Simon John Powis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

106 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Autism spectrum condition (ASC) is recognized as having an inflammatory component. Post-mortem brain samples from patients with ASC display neuroglial activation and inflammatory markers in cerebrospinal fluid, although little is known about the underlying molecular mechanisms. Nuclear factor kappa-light-chain-enhancer of activated B cells (NF-κB) is a protein found in almost all cell types and mediates regulation of immune response by inducing the expression of inflammatory cytokines and chemokines, establishing a feedback mechanism that can produce chronic or excessive inflammation. This article describes immunodetection and immunofluorescence measurements of NF-κB in human post-mortem samples of orbitofrontal cortex tissue donated to two independent centers: London Brain Bank, Kings College London, UK (ASC: n = 3, controls: n = 4) and Autism Tissue Program, Harvard Brain Bank, USA (ASC: n = 6, controls: n = 5). The hypothesis was that concentrations of NF-κB would be elevated, especially in activated microglia in ASC, and pH would be concomitantly reduced (i.e., acidification). Neurons, astrocytes, and microglia all demonstrated increased extranuclear and nuclear translocated NF-κB p65 expression in brain tissue from ASC donors relative to samples from matched controls. These between-groups differences were increased in astrocytes and microglia relative to neurons, but particularly pronounced for highly mature microglia. Measurement of pH in homogenized samples demonstrated a 0.98-unit difference in means and a strong (F = 98.3; p = 0.00018) linear relationship to the expression of nuclear translocated NF-κB in mature microglia. Acridine orange staining localized pH reductions to lysosomal compartments. In summary, NF-κB is aberrantly expressed in orbitofrontal cortex in patients with ASC, as part of a putative molecular cascade leading to inflammation, especially of resident immune cells in brain regions associated with the behavioral and clinical symptoms of ASC.
Original languageEnglish
Article number27
Number of pages8
JournalFrontiers in Psychiatry
Volume2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 13 May 2011

Keywords

  • Autism spectrum condition
  • Brain
  • Inflammation
  • Orbitofrontal cortex

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