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Autism, a neurodevelopmental disorder, may involve abnormal immune reaction such as autoimmunity to the brain. Autoimmunity is generally characterized by the presence of organ-specific autoantibodies, for example the brain-specific autoantibodies in autism. Thus, we conducted a study of autoantibodies against three brain regions, including the caudate-putamen nucleus (CP), cerebral cortex (CC), and cerebellum (CE). These brain regions were dissected out from the brain of a Sprague-Dawley rat and homogenized for protein separation by SDS-PAGE. Autoantibodies were detected by immunoblotting technique in the serum of autistic children (n=42) and normal children (n=11 ). We found that many autistic children had autoantibodies to neural proteins: 46% of sera were positive for CP, 20% of sera were positive for CC, and 2% of sera were positive for CE. Normal children did not harbor these autoantibodies. Because of the highest number of autistic sera positive for autoantibodies to CP, we suggest that the caudate-putamen nucleus might be affected in the brain of autistic children. Subsequently, we made a supernatant (CPS) of the CP homogenate and repeated immunoblotting assays for autoantibodies. We detected autoantibodies to three proteins of the CPS with molecular weights of approximately 160 kD, 115 kD and 49 kD. The nature of these proteins is currently under investigation.

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Faculty Mentor

Vijendra K. Singh

Departmental Honors Advisor

Rachel B. Amherst

Co-Faculty Mentor

Joseph K. K. Li