Gut-immune-brain dysfunction in Autism: Importance of sex.
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is characterized by social behavior deficits, stereotypies, cognitive rigidity, and in some cases severe intellectual impairment and developmental delay. Although ASD is most widely identified by its neurological deficits, gastrointestinal issues are common in ASD. An intimate and complex relationship exists between the gut, the immune system, and the brain, leading to the hypothesis that ASD may be a systems-level disease affecting the gut and immune systems, in addition to the brain. Despite significant advances in understanding the contribution of the gut and immune systems to the etiology of ASD, there is an intriguing commonality among patients that is not well understood: they are predominantly male. Virtually no attention has been given to the potential role of sex-specific regulation of gut, peripheral, and central immune function in ASD, despite the 4:1 male-to-female bias in this disorder. In this review, we discuss recent revelations regarding the impact of gut-immune-brain relationships on social behavior in rodent models and in ASD patients, placing them in the context of known or putative sex specific mechanisms.
Kopec, AM; Fiorentino, MR; Bilbo, SD
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